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LJii1.iJ u 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 


f EUmmER 83 155UE EIGHT ! 



introduction = 


from our readers i 


review essay by chris winks = 


by Shirley garzotto = 


short items from here and there = 

GET HOT! 41 = 

tale of toil by zoe noe = 

BLUE SHIELD & THE UNION: A Post- Mortem 46| 

article by debra wittley = 


fiction by steve abbott = 

WORLD PROCESSING: Technology & Instability 57i 

article by tom athanasiou, con amigos 5 

Cover Graphic by: Jim Ludtke = 


All of the articles and stories in Processed World reflect 
the views and fantasies of the author and not necessarily 
those of other contributors or editors. .^^^"^ 


CREDITS: /A special apology to Shirley Garzotto, = 
whose name was lost "in process" on her comic Badl 
Girl in PW #7. nS's contributors: Helen HIghwater.i /// /^ 

Chris Winks, Maxine Holz, Louis Michaelson, Zoe Noe, = '^ 

Lucius Cabins, Stephen Marks, Bradley Rose, Sally A. = ^^ ^ 
Frye, Linda Thomas, M. Whitson, Richard Laubach,= vW 't^/* 
Michelle La Place, Rickie "K", Clayton Sheridan, = 
Shirley Garzotto, Oscar Bernal, Tom Athanasiou, = 
Dorthy Shellorne, Ana Kellia Ramares, Mark Hensley,= 
David Steinberg, J. Gulesian, Tom Way man, R. God-z 
oilei, Frank Discussion, and special thanks to Ashburyz 
{Press) for long-time access, support, and patience. = 
Processed World, 55 Sutter St. U829, SF, CA 941041 




Welcome to the 8th issue of 
Processed World. We hope that this 
issue will continue to incite your 
interest and sense of controversy. 
PW nj, the "Special Sex Issue," 
nearly sold out in three months 
{proving once again that "sex 
sells"). Regrettably PW ^7 is al- 
most unavailable. Due to increasing 
demand, we printed 4,000 copies of 
#8, instead of last issue's 3,000. 

To you readers sitting on hot 
stories for fear of losing your 
anonymity, fear no more! The Blue 
Shield article was sent to us anony- 
mously. We're always interested in 
whistle-blowers, dirty laundry, ar- 
ticles, exposes, and stories from the 
work-a-day world — So send 'em in! 

In our letters section JG criticizes 
PW for its narrow focus on single, 
white office office workers. While 
certainly not the first reader to 
insist that PW encompass a broader 
view, JG goes further by suggesting 
that PW actively seek out material 
on racism and its application in the 
modern day clerical world. In fact, 
racism is touched on more in this 
issue than in the past. Both Debra 
Wittley's Blue Shield piece, and 
Steve Abbott's story "First Steps" 
address racism in the office, illu- 
strating in particular the "com- 
munication problem" and how it is 
exploited by management hier- 

In our "DOWNTIME!" section, 
we have reprinted a copy of a 
leaflet, "Workers' Representation: 
New Carrot /Old Stick, " which some 
PWers circulated at a microelec- 
tronics conference at UC Santa 
Cruz, followed by an opposing view 
from a member of both the PW and 
Motley collectives. 


can '«» 

sad J 


For ?/7ose who revel in dynamic 
satire, Shirley Garzotto's "Bad 
Girl" has increased from one to 
seven pages in this issue. The bike 
messenger "underclass" of the Fi- 
nancial District is humorously por- 
trayed in "Tale of Toil" and poem 
by Zoe Noe. Chris Winks' review 
leads this issue, exploring the role 
of intellectuals in {or against) pow- 
er, while Tom Athanasiou's "World 
Processing" concludes it with an 
analysis of the impact of micro- 
electronic technology, breaking 
down existing divisions of labor, 
and changing social stratification. 
And there are a number of excellent 
poems in this issue. 

We present these articles as a 
springboard for further debate. We 
invite controversial comments and 
responses from our readers, so 
don 't be shy! Our mailing address 
remains: "Processed World, 55 
Sutter St., #829, San Francisco, CA 
94104, USA." 

PW is sent to subscribers via 3rd Class 
Bulk Mail {so it costs us $.11 each 
instead of $. 71). Some copies invariably 
get lost, so if you don't get yours, write 
us and we'll send you another via 1st 
Class Mail. Thanks for your patience. 


Dear PW: 

I have the title assistant manager 
at a copy store downtown. 

I hate worl<ing 50 hours a week 
for a salary. Fortunately, my im- 
mediate supervisor, Janet (the man- 
ager) is very disorganized and very 
relaxed with us 95% of the time. I 
just recently realized that an hour's 
worth of my time is certainly worth 
more than the crummy $4+ and all 
the stress and anxiety. 

I can't see any alternatives yet 
though — only getting a different 
job that pays a little more. 

But FUCK — I'm only 23 and I 
can't see any end to this ever unless 
I find the time/concentration to 
work on my music with my luckily 
unemployed friend. Then I'm hoping 
we can make /sell home cassettes 
and become self-supporting. 

Processed World couldn't've 
come at a better time. 

take care, 
T.G. — Ohio 

Dear Folks: 

I only bought your Issue #7 
because it looked titillating. Once I 
got over my anger at getting ripped 
off, though, I was very impressed. 
Michelle La Place's article, for 
example, successfully highlighted 
the irony of all this "Corporate 
Image" bullshit now impressing 
women who feel compelled to 
"make something" of themselves. 
My only comment is that its well- 
aimed criticisms overshadow the 
sorriest part of this subject: that a 
woman today still has only three 
options available to her in this 
society — housewife, corporate fel- 
lationist, or anarchist/ nobody — 
and that this heart-wrenching de- 
mise introduces ALL WOMEN to 
precisely the same position of im- 
potence which MOST MEN have 
been familiar with all along. Despite 
the fact that all influential persons 
in this subtly-closed society are 
men, it is not in fact the case, and 
never has been, that all men do or 
even could rescue themselves from 
this same pathetic demise women 
are only now discovering. This regi- 
mented society of ours may be 
governed by men, but let's not kid 
ourselves — the rulers form a very 
tightly-knit oligarchy. What is sad is 
that young women today are — 
understandably, I think — taking 
the bait and embracing the hope 
that what little pittance of materials 
they gain by cooperating will offset 
the pain of failing to fight this 
damned system. It is the same 
promise others before them be- 
lieved. It is the promise whose 
making creates the system, and 
whose failure to materialize sus- 
tains it. 

I also was very impressed by the 
article on pornography. It was sim- 
ply excellent. Its author argued her 
points fairly, sensitively, dispas- 
sionately, and without the casuistry 
which so many writers employ to 
reduce very complicated conflicts to 


simplistic "us versus them" dia- 
tribes. At the same time as Ms. 
Holz unveiled the chauvinism and 
duplicity of the hysterical anti-porn 
groups, she made every effort to 
fairly represent the legitimate criti- 
cism which porn must face. I was 
pleasantly surprised to see all this 
accomplished without polarity. If a 
few more of us could discuss this 
subject like adults, I might feel less 
threatened by the implications such 
groups create for the First Amend- 
ment. My compliments to Ms. Holz 
for the quality of her article — and 
for her bravery in writing it. 

If you people are organizing a 
gathering in hopes of generating 
some ideas, please do let me know. 
I lean toward Marxism, but with 
some hope that I can relate it to the 
American spirit of individualism 
and civil freedom, which, alas, is 
not faring well these days at the 
hands of its younger brother Capi- 
talism. I tend to think that violent 
confrontation is not an intellectually 
sound basis for advancing the cause 
of this freedom except as a last 
resort, and that today's America 
fails to represent such a "last 
resort" in spite of our racism, 
sexism, disinclination to compro- 
mise, our growing militarism, our 
growing nationalism, our use of 
education as an arm of state thought 
control, our materialism, our man- 
dates, the irrelevance of work, the 
stupidness of money and consumer 
goods, and the private ownership of 
things necessary to human survival 
(food, clothes, housing). I am also a 
Financial District drone. If, in such 
discussions as you are planning, 
you think I could either provide 
ideas or paperwork or merely assist 
you, by means of my complacency 
In the face of the status quo, in 
preventing yourselves from becom- 
ing another psychotic band of anar- 
chists obsessed with the few short- 
comings of this great country of 

ours, and this damned fine lalssez 
faire system please contact me. 
Thank you. 

M.H. — SF 

Dear PW: 

Though I've never done "office 
work," unless you include mopping 
office floors in that realm, I do 
consider myself a part of your 
"audience" of marginalized pol- 
itical-cultural misfit/Workers. 
There are important things about 
PW that distinguish it from the 
countless other publications by dis- 
contented or radical workers. Many 
people who dislike PW's "politics" 
say they like the humor. I agree it's 
your strong point. But why? To me 
it's because you get to the heart of 
the barrenness of our working lives 
and because you convey a vision of a 
different world. Not the vision of 
permanent cost-of-living allowances 
which so many worker newsletters 
are obsessed with, but the vision of 
work-as-play among freely associ- 
ated individuals, the end of wage 
work. People hate their jobs, and 
PW conveys a sense of how deep 
that hatred goes. 

Reading "Roots of Disillusion- 
ment" in PW#6 gave me a sense of 
your general outlook and how you 
see your origins. It also set off a 
series of questions in my mind 
about your long-range perspective. 
I think it was a good attempt to give 
us a "big picture" of recent 
changes, mainly the growth of the 
info processing industry and how a 
portion of the 60's rebels find 
themselves sucked into the world of 
office work. And yet... I have 
different views about being margi- 
nal workers and about race. 

The "Roots" article said that 
PW's "typical readers" are 60's- 


influenced rebels who do secretarial 
jobs, often as temps. They do jobs 
which are below typical office su- 
pervisors, but one step above the 
data entry and file clerks, who are 
nnost often "younger women, es- 
pecially Blacks, Chicanas, and im- 
migrants from Asia and Latin Am- 
erica." This "new breed" is "rest- 
less and mobile," unlike the older 
generation more schooled in the 
"traditional secretarial role." PW's 
style, sensibility, and humor spring 
from that layer of office worker, 
which seems like an honest and 
solid place to initiate a political 

But these people are only a small 
fragment of office workers, who live 
and work with everybody else in 
offices, not in a 60's rebels com- 
partment. Whenever collective re- 
bellion breaks out, very different 
layers of workers and even several 
different types of marginals will 
unite (and unfortunately come into 
conflict). To me this means special 
attention must be paid to not 
"ghetto-izing" your concerns, to 
only addressing the young, the 
white, and the "hip." 

On the one hand that means 
doing your best to educate your- 
selves and your "typical readers" 
about how other office workers see 
things, how they struggle, resist, 
get co-opted, etc. On the other 
hand, that means reaching out to 
"un-typical" readers /workers who 
have their own language, humor 
and styles of resistance, which may 
clash with your own but are no less 
valid. I don't mean trying to reach 
some non-existent generic office 
worker rebel by sanitizing your 
style, but somehow trying to con- 
sciously "stretch" it in order to 
unify people. Unity means con- 
scious struggle amongst ourselves, 
not waiting for the nasty bosses to 
unite us. 

All of the above goes double for 
the issue of race and racism. This 

element of reality barely emerges in 
PW, which appears color-blind, in 
contrast to its emphatic awareness 
of sexism expressed in articles on 
that theme and a more general 
concern diffused among all the 
writing and graphics. Yet for all this 
color-blindness, PW is particularly 
"white" in its style and content. 
But there is no such thing as a 
"white" vision of change in 1983. 

Again, does this mean you deny 
who you are ("whites"), start an 
affirmative action program, or give 
"those poor third world people" a 
token page? No, but if you have half 
a brain it means that institutional 
racism must be rejected by all 
workers if this country, or world, is 
ever going to change. This means 
race is a priority issue for all rebels, 
white and non-white, not because 
we're good christians, but because 
most of the world's workers are 
non-white and the structure of racial 
privilege in the U.S. has been 
instrumental to keeping "whites" 
in a wage-slave mentality (privi- 
lege? See any statistics with racial 
breakdown on unemployment, oc- 
cupations, income, housing, educa- 
tion or health). 

A whole set of enslaving, disuni- 
fying, alienating identities have to 
be tossed in the garbage so we can 
come together against our existence 
as passive wage labor. The rejection 
of white skin privilege only has 
meaning if it is simultaneously the 
expression of a new human being, 
unbound by the stupid conformity of 
global capital. 

To return to the issue of margi- 
nals, it has been pointed out many 
times that the very concept of 
"hip," "outsider," etc., is at base 
an interpretation of the subversive 
sub-cultures of urban Blacks. We all 
know where "white" rock came 
from, yet we can see even today 
Men At Work making millions off 
their honky-fied reggae. It's true 
that subversive cultural identities 


are often based on rejecting cultural 
"whiteness" (hippie, punk), but 
capital's re-absorption of subcul- 
tures through nnedia, fads, etc., 
always assist the "white-ish" (ac- 
ceptable) tendencies inside subcul- 
tures. Then of course there are 
rebel subcultures which are self- 
consciously "white" (supremacist) 
like British skinheads, the old grea- 
sers here, or our local WPOD's 
(white punks on dope/white power 
or die for those outside of SF). 

To end your color-blind approach 
would also increase possibilities for 
Asian, Black or Latin workers to 
contribute to PW themselves, and 
to deepen the dialogue we need so 
desperately. To treat race as a key 
issue is not tokenism but realism, if 
we seek to turn over the world 
rather than destroy it. 

For Workers Autonomy 

(not Lobotomy), 

J.G. — SF 

Dear JG: 

Because I'm gay, when I first saw 

copies of Processed World I natur- 
ally looked for material by or speak- 
ing to gay people. What I did notice 
immediately is what you refer to — 
a consciousness of sexism that 
pervaded the magazine. That was 
good enough for me, 'cause I've 
found that most folks who are 
anti-sexist are usually anti-homo- 
phobic, too. And as I began working 
with the people who put out Pro- 
cessed World I did in fact find it 
easy to participate as a gay person. 
Just as I was reassured by seeing 
sexism continually exposed and ri- 
diculed in PW, I imagine people of 
color would be reassured by seeing 
some similar treatment of racism. 
It's not enough for Processed World 
to simply say that the abolition of 
work and the decentralization of 
society will make life better for 
everyone. People who've encoun- 
tered racism in even the "progres- 




Exchange and Gift Division 

Processed World 
55 Sutter Street No. 829 
San Francisco, California 

Gentlemen : 

Refer To AG: 
February 16, I983. 

mentioned "below. 

Thank you very much for sending us the serial publication 
Although we appreciate your sending us this 
publication, we find that it falls outside the scope of the Library's 
needs. We therefore request that you remove our name from your 
mailing list for this title. 

We appreciate your efforts on our behalf, and thank you for 
your attention to this request. 


Rrocessed World 

Nathan R. 




sive" movements of women, labor, 
ecology, and socialism — as I've 
often encountered tiomophobia in 
tfiose quarters — will want to know 
exactly where Processed World 
stands on racism. 

We live in a racist society. Racism 
is built into our institutions and 
racial exploitation is built into capi- 
talist, industrial development. Any- 
one who is born and raised in 
America cannot help but be tainted 
by racism. Only conscious effort to 
SEE and CHALLENGE racism can 
raise us from our racist social heri- 

There are straightforward and 
routine ways that can be accom- 
plished. Just by talking about it I 
think we will begin finding our- 
selves more and more aware of 
racist assumptions we may have 
internalized. Contributors and pro- 
ducers of PW can PAY ATTEN- 
TION when we hear racist jokes in 
the office, or disparaging comments 
by white managers about third 
world workers, or complaints about 
"communications problems" with 
workers for whom English is a 
second language {see the Blue 
Shield article in this issue). We can 
get into the habit of citing racism 
when we talk about coercion and 

hierarchy, using Processed World 
to expose racism when we see it in 
the office world, and including the 
subject in discussions of whatever 
critiques we develop. I think this is 
the best way to let our readers know 
that we are talking and thinking 
about racism. 

— Stephen Marks 


Dear Processed World: 

After reading some of the letters 
in P.W. 5 and 6, and Bob Black's 
critique "Circle-A Deceit," I have 
come to the conclusion that the PW 
collective appears to be foundering 
on an age-old question: how do 
revolutionaries play an "avant- 
garde" role without playing at 
vanguard? How do they play an 
educative role without in any way 
diminishing the self-activity of peo- 
ple and promoting their dependence 
on "leaders?" 

Joe Hill notwithstanding, the 
answer, in my opinion, is: Don't 
Organize, Agitate! People are quite 



capable of organizing themselves 
when they see the point in it. As 
every revolution in history has 
shown, when people get it into their 
heads that they're going to change 
the world, they do a nnuch better job 
of organizing themselves than we 
ever could. If they don't see the 
point, no amount of us trying to 
rabble-rouse around shop-floor and 
other petty reform-type issues Is 
going to move people into motion. 
That's not to say that a radical 
change in the objective conditions 
necessarily will either, as the Great 
Depression demonstrated. (Con- 
trary to popular opinion, the Ameri- 
can people were quite docile in the 
1930's, and, when they did act, they 
rarely challenged the terms of the 
struggle set by the system.) 

What's needed is for people to 
see the possibility, desirability, and 
necessity of smashing the old world 
and creating it anew. All three of 
these elements must be present. 
And this is where revolutionaries 
can play a helpful role. By applying 
a critique of everyday life to peo- 
ple's day-to-day experience (much 
as Processed World has been doing 
with the experience of work), one 
can help pinpoint the frustration 
people feel, can help them articu- 
late their underlying needs and 
aspirations, and help make clear the 
possibility for a different state of 
affairs which liberates human po- 
tential instead of suppressing it. 
Someone characterizing the Situa- 
tionists in a recent issue of Open 
Road [available from Box 6135, Stn. 
G, Vancouver, B.C. Canada V6R 
4G5] put it like this: 

"The task for situationists was... 
not to support a revolutionary move- 
ment which did not yet exist but to 
create one by revealing the contra- 
diction between people's desires 
and their perceived needs." 

"Modern capitalism is impover- 
ished precisely because it has cre- 

ated the preconditions for material 
abundance while only providing an 
abundance of boredom and a denial 
of possibilities. When the reality of 
desire conflicts with the appearance 
of needs manufactured by the spec- 
tacle of commodity culture, revo- 
lutionary consciousness and revolu- 
tionary movements will emerge." 

Finally, I just want to say that 
Processed World's greatest 
strength has been that it is virtually 
the only organ of workplace agi- 
tation that doesn't reduce itself 
down to crassest economism. It 
treats every aspect of the work 
experience — as indeed it should. 
In other words, maybe you were on 
the right track all along. 

R.H. — Toronto 
[RH is part of the Kick It Over 
collective, an interesting publica- 
tion available from P.O. Box 5811, 
Stn. A, Toronto, Ontario M5W 1 P2.] 


Dear PW: 

Interest has been waning of late 
in PW. Women seem reluctant to 
look at anything that might cause 
waves on their jobs because of all 
the tight employment situations. 
Also, management is fully exerci- 
sing its right to fire at will, particu- 
larly in private employment, and 
there is virtually no recourse. 

Are you facing the same thing in 
SF? I know of two cases here that 
come readily to mind of women who 
were summarily fired after having 
worked capably on management 
jobs for 5 years or more. Human 
Rights Commission was ineffective 
(one case was not brought; the other 
was thrown out for lack of evi- 
dence). A more recent layoff In a 
restaurant affected 23 workers, with 
18 others fired before the layoff. 
The owner said It was a cutback and 
possibly it was, but there are 


unhealthy undertones relating to 
the number of gay women who were 
fired, for example, and the almost 
certain feeling that those laid off 
will not be rehired. 

I hope there are answers other 
than creating a legal fund and 
bringing suit. A newspaper article 
in the case of the restaurant brought 
the plight of the fired workers to the 
attention of the folks in Anchorage. 
The reaction was mixed. Some 
thought the workers were just spa- 
cey do-nothings anyway and others 
were outraged at the firings, the 
poor quality food and the attitude of 
the manager/owner, and the in- 
crease in prices. 

Life continues and we keep fight- 
ing the same battles. Over and over 
and over again... 

For a better world, 
R.S. — Anchorage, AK 

Dear PW: 

PW7 is just wonderful — couldn't 
get enough of it, as usual. Read 
every word and wanted more. And 
it looks great, too. I prefer the 
personal testimony over the socio- 
political analyses (Harragan didn't 
invent corporate feminism just as 
Marx didn't invent communism). 
The Letters column was lively and 
it's good to see PW's influence 
spreading from Berkeley to Tor- 

Like Linda (although our histories 
are different) I have never fit in 
either. I think that's why we need 
the annual Christmas consuming 
hysteria and other "national" holi- 
days. Their celebration gives the 
sense of false community. Every 
time I've thought I fit in I was 
deluded. I'm still wide-eyed around 
the office cliques who seem to be 
having such a good time, except 

that when I'm finally admitted I 
don't have a good time at all. I've 
rationalized it all by preferring a 
stranger's life, and if I look at it 
closely enough it just doesn't hurt 
as much as it used to. i wish I did fit 
in, but that's onty a wish for the 
elusive community. But doesn't 
community exist by excluding 
others? I'm just not sure anymore. 
Maybe that's why PW gets accused 
of pragmatism and lack of direction. 
It's simply naive to believe that 
labeling a group creates a com- 
munity. Defining direction sounds a 
little too much Hl^ management 

Corporate feminism and the dress 
for success thing are part of the 
mindless snobbism fostered by the 
panderers to the bloated managerial 
class. Was it one of you who 
scribbled on an office building, "If 
you think you're middle class, top 
management knows better"? 

A couple of months ago I met a 
former GM worker, now ready for 
retirement. We talked about the 
Great Depression and the depres- 
sion-that-isn't and I asked why he 
thought the U.S. was going broke 
(he was worried about ever collect- 
ing Social Security). He talked 
about his years on the line, working 
without coffee breaks, having a 
half-hour for lunch (which he ate in 
the middle of the night), turning out 
GM cars that were the standard by 
which others were measured. He 
spoke with that sense of pride I've 
found in others — factory workers 
and miners — and blamed the U.S. 
decline on the unions and their 
insistence on coffee breaks and 
lowered productivity. Surely, I said, 
managerial decisions and short- 
term profit motives had had some 
influence. The look crossed his face 
that I'd also seen before, kind of 
quizzical, the am-l-in-the-presence- 
of-a-slobbering-communist look ac- 
companied by a change of subject, 
usually to the weather or the 49ers. 



Oh, I know all the reasons for this — 
the fascist potential of the working 
class, the power of the elite to instill 
shame in the workers, the pride in 
the product, the fading of nnemory, 
but it still doesn't explain it all. No 
nnore than I can understand the 
identification of a secretary with her 
supervisor, a vice president. If 
management consultants advise ex- 
ecutives to have no loyalty to the 
corporation (and they do advise 
them in just those words), then why 
should an office worker with one of 
the most menial jobs have such a 
strong sense of loyalty that she 
spies on others on her own or a 
lower level, that she cares? Accord- 
ing to the Wall Street Journal only 
5% of secretaries are male, so I feel 
okay about thinking about the other 
95% as "she," by the way. In the 
early days of feminism, way back in 
the sixties, we called these women 
"agents," and so they seem to be. 

Being without S job shatters my 
identity. Mostly it's about buying 
things, so I spend a lot of time in the 
Safeway. I have to keep buying 
things and food is okay. But since 
I'm so often without a job I have to 
deal with this problem of identity. I 
don't think of myself as rebellious, 
but I act as if I am. It's the fantasy 
of security I can't buy, especially if 
it means fitting in. What's wrong 
with me? There must be an easier 
way. People in offices are dada, 
seem totally nuts to me, with a few 
genuine psychotics fortunately 
tranked out with long lunch hours 
spent at the therapist's. Yes, it 
would be nice to trust someone, but 
the passions in control don't en- 
courage trust. 

Good luck at your new world 
corporate headquarters. And thanks 
again. I'm glad you're out there. 

B.C. — SF 

Dear Processed World, 

Just recently I was fired from my 
job as a restaurant cook. For the 
year and a half I worked there the 
owner constantly reminded me that 
I was expendable, easily replace- 
able. I persisted in taking on more 
responsibility and asking for the 
appropriate raise. At this time I was 
inevitably subjected to the business 
owner blues: "do you know how 
much my electric bills are for this 
place? Bringing up a family and 
trying to run the restaurant is 
expensive. There are a lot of people 
who would take your job for $4 an 
hou r.Whyshouldl pay ypM naore? ' ' 

' * Because I ' m worth it' 'j would 
start to explain, ancir would list all 
the tasks I perfonri,: convincing him 
that I was worth $.50 more an hour. 
This was humiliating. Was I sup- 
posed to feel guilty and withdraw 
my request for a raise? With my last 
raise came a cut in hours, cancelling 
out the increase. 

Last summer t was working at 
least 50 hours a week without 
overtime, because they didn't have 
to pay it. The restaurant offered no 
benefits, no health plan. Just the 
friendly reminder that I was lucky to 
have a job. "Stay in your place, 
don't push your luck and remember 
who's the boss." These working 
conditions were unbearable. I knew 
they wanted me to quit, the hints 
were not very subtle: "What are 
your plans for the summer, you're 
probably tired of being in Boulder. 
You don't have to do that anymore, 
Don can do it." They slowly 
chopped away at my responsibili- 
ties, and casually suggested that I 
take an extra day off this week, 
"business has been slow." 

It finally came to a blow out. I had 
been ignoring the scheme to make 
me quit. The owner brought me the 
office one day and told me he didn't 
need me Thursdays or Fridays 
anymore. This would have cut my 
work week down to 16 hours. I 



refused to accept it, so he suggested 
that I give him my "resignation." I 
refused to quit as well. He fired me 
on the spot. I'm filing for unem- 
ployment. I can think of no greater 
relief than to not be working in a 
restaurant now. 

I'm looking for full enjoyment, 
not full employment. Being unem- 
ployed is not a disadvantage. Ima- 
gine if everyone was out of work. 
We would not be subject to the 
machine. It's time to break the 

E. — Boulder, CO 

Dear PW: 

I'm an independent computer 
consultant. Computers don't do 
things to me; I do things to them. In 
a sense, I view your world from the 
other side of the mirror. 

I recently ran across a copy of 
PW6, and I like it. It tells me how 
the things I make are experienced 
by their victims (althougn we in the 
trade prefer to call them "end 

Up until 1977 I worked as a grunt 
programmer for a big corporation, 
so I have had many of the experi- 
ences your writers discuss. I used to 
talk to my co-workers about how we 
were being exploited, and I got a lot 
of blank stares. Most of them 
weren't even aware that they were 
being treated like solid waste mat- 
ter. The ones who were aware 
thought my concern was fatuous. 
Work was work, they said, and I 
shouldn't expect the working envi- 
ronment to be humane. 

I'm pleased to see that office 
workers are beginning to be aware 
of themselves as a group and to 
demand change. That's not to say I 
agree with the things the writers in 
PW are demanding. 

I was troubled to see that many of 
your contributors are indulging in 

petty sabotage. That bothers me not 
so much because it's illegal (al- 
though there's that, too), as be- 
cause it's counterproductive. It's a 
cheap ego trip for the saboteur that 
hardens the establishment's atti- 
tude without hurting it significantly. 

Dogshit-Digit's letter is the clear- 
est example. D-D seems to think 
that pouring salted coffee into a 
video terminal's keyboard is a 
meaningful act of protest. Bullshit! 
D-D's employer writes off that sort 
of vandalism as a cost of doing 
business, and passes the cost along 
to its customers. If D-D escalates it 
to the point where it really hurts, 
the company will just "correct" the 
situation with increased surveil- 
lance and repression. 

Now consider the effect of D-D's 
sabotage on the repair person who 
must fix the terminal. She's in a 
worse position than D-D is, since 
she moves in and out of strange 
offices all day and can't develop a 
support network among her co- 
workers. She derives her job satis- 
faction (if any) from keeping ter- 
minals in working order. She's got a 
territory to cover, and her manager 
will probably jump on her if she 
spends too long on her average 
repair call. And here's this self- 
styled urban guerrilla dreaming up 
new ways to make work for her — 
unnecessary, frustrating, meaning- 
less work. 

"Drive the repair technicians cra- 
zy!" D-D chortles. Hey, turkey, 
they're supposed to be on your side! 

If this revolution is going to get 
anywhere, the participants have got 
to have as clear an idea of what 
they're for as of what they're 
against. Otherwise they're just go- 
ing to run around flailing at sha- 
dows and hitting one another. 

At this point I can hear D-D and 
several others muttering, "OK, 
wise guy — tell us what you're for." 
I'll get to that in a minute. First let 
me state some general principles 




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that I think office workers have got 
to accept before they can deal with 
their problems effectively. 

Principle #1: information is im- 
portant. It may be fun to pretend 

that data banks, Apple Computer 
and the service economy are a lot of 
bullshit, but it isn't realistic. 
They're central to the way our world 
works. Never mind "should;" they 




by Mark Hensley 

put your lire 

holding pattern 

reassess your sexual identity^^ 

enlarge your penis 

eat anything 

and still lose weight 

(answer these questions 
in twenty words, or less) 

dress for success 
learn new skills 
soften facial flaws 
remove unwanted 
body hair 

have you ever tried consulting 

a hypnotist 

are you getting the most 

out of your career 

do you like 

kosher yogurt 

what's the 
body count? 

are. They have something ap- 
proaching total control over many of 
our lives. How are we going to deal 
with them if we don't take them 

All writing is information. PW 
consists largely of writing, and thus 
largely of information. Is PW there- 
fore largely meaningless? Certainly 

Principle #2: information proces- 
sing is not evil. Shane said it best. 
"Ma'am, a computer is a tool. It's 
as good or as bad as the person who 
uses it." Use it! If you reject the use 
of information processing, you let 

your opponent have all the loaded 

Principle #3: a revolution is a 
process, not a movement. People 
just don't get together and decide to 
change the social order. Revolutions 
happen when a multitude of people 
move in the same direction — 
usually with differing goals, dif- 
fering motives, and differing the- 
ories or no theories at all. Out of the 
resulting shifts of power, a new 
logic and a new order emerge. After 
the revolution has run its course, 
the appearance of unity is imposed 
on it by despots or historians. 



I believe "the revolution" is 
already happening. It's the com- 
puter revolution — the most pro- 
found change in the way we live and 
think that has occurred in at least a 

If that sounds like a commercial 
for Apple Computer, it's because 
Apple is pushing this particular 
revolution for all it's worth. The 
Computer Revolution makes a great 
sales pitch because it happens to be 
true. The fact that some big cor- 
porations profit from it does nothing 
to disqualify it as a real, card 
carrying revolution (see Principle 
#3). Nor does that fact destroy its 
potential for good (see Principle #2). 

The prime question on my mind is 
this: are we going to talk about a 
revolution that isn't happening 
while the one that is happening rolls 
over us, or are we going to jump on 
board and try to control the thing? I 
favor the latter. 

I'm very excited about what's 
happening in the small computer 
market. Real information power is 
now within the reach of any steadily 
employed person, or any viable 
organization. Prices start at about 
$3,000, and they're still dropping. 

Once you have that computer you 
can tap into tremendous amounts of 
on-line information (see Principle 
#1) and use it for constructive 
purposes if you choose. You can 
typeset and distribute PW more 
easily and cheaply than you other- 
wise could. You can set up your own 
cottage industry and become rela- 
tively independent of the men in the 
glass buildings. You can find like- 
minded people through computer 
networks and communicate with 
them. Name a human activity; a 
computer can probably help you 
with it in some way. 

To me, the most encouraging 
writer in PW6 was the one who said, 
"I have found myself relating to, 
and in some ways fascinated by, a 
technology that two years ago I 

dismissed in favor of gothic cathe- 
drals." I'd like to hear more from 
that person. Anyone who can move 
comfortably between VDT's and 
gothic cathedrals has my unquali- 
fied approval. I think such people 
will be the salvation of us all. 

End of sermon. I suspect I've 
alienated most of the people read- 
ing this. That's OK. If we all 
thought the same thoughts we'd be 

IBM's motto is THINK. My motto 


both a creative and a selfish sense. 

Very truly yours, 

J.S. — Richmond, CA 

Dear U.S.: 

Thanks for your letter and views 
on PW. It's great that you enjoy 
reading it, and that you enjoy it 
enough to criticize it too. Our critics 
have helped us grow. 

You mention that you are pleased 



to see office workers beginning to 
be aware of tfiem selves and to see 
organization as a potential metfiod 
for creating cfiange. CIHANGE is 
indeed tlie /cey word tiere. I once 
attempted to organize tfie small 
insurance brokerage office that I 
worked in. I was rather naive about 
it, and in retrospect, I am glad it 
didn't happen. Had we become 
unionized, we probably would have 
all gotten better salaries, and I'm 
sure that some of the "conditions" 
would have been improved. Would I 
have been happy? No. Why? Be- 
cause the things I wanted changed 
through organization are not attain- 
able in this world. What I really 
wanted was not to be there at all, or 
at least for my boss to stop being 
such an asshole. Unions can do 
nothing about "conditions" which 
are resultant upon emotional fac- 
tors. Organizing does no good un- 
less it is on such a massive scale as to 
be paralytic to the entire business 
community. Yet I do not remain so 
naive as to ever believe that "we" 
can ever make a big enough im- 
pression to create a change in the 
fundamental thinking of corporate 
America. This is my cynicism show- 
ing through. I am 31 now, and 
honestly do not expect to see any 
significant social changes in my 
lifetime, as regards the working 
world. Others in PW {some others 
anyway) feel differently. 

"Petty Sabotage": You say it is 
counterproductive. I argue that 
point, because any small act of 
revenge that can be taken should be 
taken. It is not an act of sabotage 
that is truly taking place, in my 
opinion. What is actually occurring 
is that someone's heart, soul, spirit 
and body is slowly being robbed 
of meaning, that someone is dying 
inside. Sabotage is a loud scream, 
an attempt to survive. I am sure 
that you are correct in saying that it 
really doesn't affect the corpora- 
tions. I don't care if it does or not. 

Sometimes all you can get is a cheap 
thrill. Since "life" in the working 
world has been reduced to that, I'll 
take it, anyway I can get it. Digit 
Dogshit is an anonymous reader 
who sent his or her stuff in to PW, 
so you're wrong to presume that he 
or she is sitting around muttering in 
response to your words. Insofar as 
driving the repair technicians crazy 
goes, and your admonition that they 
are supposed to be on ' 'our side, ' ' 
well, at least sabotage gives them a 
job to do, and adds spice and 
challenge too. As for "our side" — 
who says? I know some pretty 
gung-ho technicians who do not at 
all appear to be on my side. 

As for your "Principle #7, infor- 
mation is important" — hell, we 
know that. Processed World has 
never implied that information is 
unimportant. Without the help of 
computers, PW would be more hard 
work than it already is, and it's 
already plenty. Of course we just 
have to sweat it out that the infor- 
mation we have to {it's our job) 
process is not information that we 
choose to process, or that we need 
something from. That perspective is 
far from being anti-information. 
Which brings me to your "Principle 
#2". Our opponents already have all 
the loaded weapons whether we use 
technology or not. We help them 
load their guns everyday by our 
very existence. The lower class 
gives the "higher" class something 
to stand on. 

I too believe that the revolution 
{such as it is) is already occurring. It 
occurs with each breath I take, it is 
in process continually. So we agree 
on the point of revolution being a 
process. I do see too that the 
Computer Revolution is one which 
is changing the course of history 
and the world. I have a versateller 
card, and I 'm glad of it. I like the 
way I can get information easily 
through the use of computers, and 
when I worked on one, I enjoyed it 



sometimes. However, jumping on 
board and controlling the thing is, 
my dear, and you will realize this 
probably too late, nothing more 
than being sucked into the vortex 
and becoming "processed" into 
that world. It is a seduction that 
takes you bit by bit until you too are 
dreaming of how you can get hired 
on at a nuclear plant and be the one 
that refuses to deploy the weapons 
when the big one is called out. No 
"worker" will ever be in that 
position. Under the present system, 
no worker will ever be in a position 
to effect change. Our place is 

As you dream away, believing 
that you are independent of the men 
in the glass and concrete buildings, 
it is easy for you to propose that 
Processed World become a cottage 
industry and operate inside its own 
economic system. In other words — 
exchange one form of capitalism for 
another. That's change? 

I am glad you were encouraged 
by the person who wrote about 

computers and gothic cathedrals. I 
too believe that the poets of the 
world will "save" us, if only from 
each other, by forcing us to think. 
Speaking of thinking, you end your 
letter by saying we should think for 
ourselves in both a creative and 
selfish sense. I see this as both a 
blessing and a curse, for to think for 
yourself in a world which takes 
oneself away from oneself is a 
challenge indeed, and if you really 
do it, promises guaranteed isola- 
tion. It is a challenge that I have 
upheld, I believe, all of my life, and 
I intend to carry it through, even 
though it has already cost me more 
than I ever intended to pay. I leave 
you with the same challenge, and in 
that spirit, hope I have not alienated 
you, like you suspected you would 
alienate us with your letter. 

— Linda Thomas 
P.S. You said that we should say 
what we are for and what we are 
against — We're for LIVING, and 
against its opposite disguised by a 
slick technology. 





{A review of The City Builder, by 
George Konrad, translated by Ivan 
Sanders, published in 1977 by Har- 
court Brace Jovanovich] 

Modern society is a vast accumula- 
tion of hierarchies in * which each 
individual is forced to participate. 
Success is measured out in shares of 
power — and whether wielded direct- 
ly or indirectly, this power is always 
over others. And if it is true that 
"knowledge is power," then the 
so-called "possessors of knowledge" 
are allotted a relatively privileged 
position in the division of labor. These 
intellectuals are rewarded for their 
knowledge with access to the mecha- 
nisms of power. But they are valued 
less for the extent of their knowledge 
(although this is important) than for 
its compatibility with the dominant 
society's priorities. This restricts their 
prized "free exercise of thought," 
and brings them into conflict with 
what they perceive as the bungling 
stupidity of their patrons. However, 
their remedy for the abuses of power 
is to demand more of it for them- 
selves, on the grounds that those who 
have been trained to conceptualize 
the general interest are best equipped 
to represent it. 

Intellectuals encounter numerical 
barriers to their mobility within the 
bureaucratic machine: there are sim- 
ply not enough slots they can profit- 
ably fill. At present, there is much 

talk of "overqualification" and "un- 
deremployment," and worried con- 
jecture about the adverse social ef- 
fects of a multitude of frustrated, 
unfulfilled "brain workers" trapped 
in the lower echelons of bureaucracy. 
Certainly most workplace conditions 
are enough to undermine any ethical- 
ly-oriented world view. Quite pro- 
perly, college graduates who find 
themselves in such situations often 
complain openly about the predomi- 
nant regimentation, petty harass- 
ment, and infantile rules. 

However, it is not easy to dissolve 
the evident social and cultural bar- 
riers between "underemployed" in- 
tellectuals and their less-privileged 
fellow workers. Those without any 
opportunity to climb the corporate 
ladder tend to be skeptical of people 
who speak of oppression while pos- 
sessing skills that potentially entitle 
them to a more "responsible" posi- 
tion in the hierarchy. Historical ex- 
perience bears out such wariness. 
Ever since the triumph of Bolshevism 
(whose authoritarian ideology and 
political structure were devised by 
intellectuals), ostensibly rebellious 
intellectuals, rejoicing in the oxymor- 
onic title of "professional revolu- 
tionaries," have, with a few honor- 
able exceptions, used popular revolu- 
tionary struggles as mere spring- 
boards for their own ascent into the 
ruling circles. Similar motivations 
governed the behavior of many New 



Left activists in advanced industrial 
societies. When it became clear that 
the liberation of oppressed peoples 
was a more complex proposition than 
anticipated, these aspiring power- 
holders were quick to exchange their 
verbal militancy for the relative com- 
fort of a salaried position in this or 
that bureaucracy. Meanwhile, their 
former constituents remained no bet- 
ter off than before. 

Of course, the acquisition of power 
is not the intellectual worker's exclu- 
sive preoccupation. Like any worker 
in any field, intellectuals can use their 
skills to undermine as well as rein- 
force the system that monopolizes 
their time and energy. In a world with 
the motto "what you see is all there 
is," ideas — the intellectual's alleged 
stock-in-trade — are noticeably ab- 
sent, especially from the totalitarian 
ambience of the workplace, where 
anything that does not serve a "pro- 
ductive," corporate-bureaucratic pur- 
pose is automatically suspect, or at 
least irrelevant. 

Those intellectuals who take seri- 
ously the injunction, preached every- 
where but seldom practiced, to think 
for oneself and inquire into hidden 
causes, will inevitably encounter the 

fear, suspicion, and eventual ostra- 
cism of their bureaucratic superiors. 
For hierarchy lives on silence, and 
people who have been brought up to 
believe in the emancipating — or at 
least civilizing — powers of discourse 
are less likely to adapt to this. Today, 
with economic depression drying up 
the channels of mobiUty, increasing 
numbers of educated workers will be 
permanently stuck in dead-end jobs. 
They will then confront, and perhaps 
reject, the futility of striving for the 
phony privileges handed out by a 
dehumanizing system. In this event, 
they should neither treat their intel- 
lectual qualities as marketable skills 
nor as characteristics of "genius" 
from which their benighted fellow- 
workers are excluded, but as fortu- 
nate talents which everyone can ben- 
efit from and enrich in turn. The 
educator must be educated. 

Self-examination is central to this 
process. If the social role allotted to 
intellectual workers is capable of both 
positive and negative resolutions, this 
role should be examined on an in- 
dividual and collective level. In his 
novel The City Builder, the Hun- 
garian writer George Konrad provides 
a starting point for such an inquiry. 



Unfortunately, this searing self-por- 
trait of that bete noire of the bour- 
geois intellectual — the bourgeois 
intellectual — has been allowed by its 
United States publishers to vanish 
into oblivion, another example of how 
the arb(e liters of both the Eastern and 
Western culture industries conspire, 
each in their own way, to prevent the 
circulation of critical thought. It must 
also be said that this novel makes no 
concessions to its readers. Its style is 
often willfully obscure, lapsing now 
and then into strained, noisy rhetoric, 
and Konrad's images, while often 
powerful, suffer from sameness of 
construction. But the undeniable 
weaknesses of the book derive from 
Konrad's valiant efforts to inunerse 
himself in the welter of existence, to 
come to terms with the sometimes 
intolerable choices it imposes, and to 
express the things that often resist 

Konrad has devoted most of his 
literary and political activity to analy- 
zing the role of the intelligentsia in 
the system of bureaucratic socialism, 
and his sociological essay The Intel- 
lectuals on the Road to Class Power, 
written in collaboration with Ivsui 
Szelenyi and clandestinely circulated 
among Hungarian dissident groups, 
sparked wide discussion and led to his 
arrest in 1975. Since his return home 
after a brief exile, Konrad has par- 
ticipated actively in the Hungarian 
democracy movement. He possesses 
the ability, rare among academics, to 
synthesize a wealth of social obser- 
vations and political ideas with a sen- 
sibility that transcends cultural and 
ideological boundaries to strike dir- 
ectly at the heart. 

The City Builder consists of ten 
monologues, some of them phantas- 
magoric streams of consciousness, 
others straightforward narratives. 
The aging city builder, alone in his 
apartment, haunted by the memories 
of his dead wife and incarcerated son, 
surveys his life with an unflinching 
honesty bom of profound disillusion 

Rejecting self-pity, he dissects his 
role in maintaining a system that he 
profoundly despises and his eunbiva- 
lence towards his privileges. The 
cities he builds exist inside him as 
well as around him; just as each 
building, street, and square of the 
provincial Eastern European town 
which he designed is a backdrop for 
countless personal and social dramas, 
his own life is itself a vast, chaotic city 
where past memories and present 
hopes and fears coUide in an "inter- 
secting point of labyrinthine humgm 
relationships." Throughout the book, 
the city builder yearns desperately to 
break out of the social constraints of 
his profession and to harmonize his 
life with that of the city. "As an 
architect," he remarks, "I can easily 
match the city's dense networks with 
my own. But rather than coordinating 
them, I subordinate the city's inter- 
ests to mine." 

In an eloquent passage, the city 
builder expresses his Utopian dreams 
of a city "where action is synonymous 
with change, where I have a right to 
my surroundings, where I don't exist 
for the city but am wooed by it." 
Despite his skepticism gmd world- 
weariness, these visions of a better 
life continue to haunt him. He wants 
to revolutionize things; he sympa- 
thizes with the harsh criticisms his 
rebelUous son makes of him; and even 
in his loneliness he never abandons 
the possibility that somehow, some 
day, he will at last be at home in the 
world. But he cannot forget the 
similar dreams that motivated him 
and his fellow intellectuals when, 
after World War II, they briefly had 
the chance to remake society. 

With bitter irony, he repeats all the 
fine slogans that resounded through 
that era, which was to have repre- 
sented a complete break with the 
past. In the end, the "universal 
solutions in behalf of the dispos- 
sessed" propounded so fervently by 
would-be Utopians served to conceal 
the omnipotent ambitions of techno- 



PC 1 OF 1 
DATE Ob/23/ai 
T/TKN 1404 


UH| P 




cratic planners. Whereas the city 
builder's wealthy father and grand- 
father, themselves architects, meas- 
ured their success by money, their 
outwardly rebellious descendant 
measured his by power. In a situation 
where "those at the bottom for the 
most part stayed at the bottom, and 
those at the top for the most part 
stayed at the top," the drive for total 
change could only be carried out by 
means of total repression. Behind the 
benevolent rule of the experts lurked 
the violence of the police, a violence 
whose necessity the city builder never 
ceased to proclaim until he himself 
fell victim to it and was imprisoned 
and tortured. 

After his rehabilitation, he once 
again made his way into the hier- 
archy, this time without disguising his 
drive for power in **the classic radi- 
caUsm of official interference," but in 
the detached pragmatism of the spe- 
cialist. Having achieved his profes- 
sional goals and gratified his longing 

for a position of authority, he knows 
that in the general scheme of things, 
his privileges are miserably petty, 
nourished on corruption, inefficiency, 
and crude self-preservation, and but- 
tressed by coercion. "Every kind of 
planning is an exercise of power, in 
favor of someone, against someone, 
or at times only for its own sake. My 
presence here is an act of violence," 
he confesses. Bureaucratic rationality 
conceals an urge, fueled by hatred 
and resentment, to remake humanity 
in one's own image. What the planner 
does not know — and what the city 
builder mercilessly emphasizes — is 
that the failure of his deluded project 
will reduce his universe "to his own 
feces, with only an old-looking child 
whining over it." 

The futility of the planner's world- 
view emerges from two descriptions 
of natural disasters encountered by 
the city builder, the first in his role as 
an expert inspecting the chaos caused 
by a flood in a provincial town, which 



he will have to rebuild, and the 
second as a victim of an earthquake 
that devastates the city. In his account 
of the flood, Konrad contrasts the 
undisciplined, instinctively coopera- 
tive behavior of the peasants resisting 
evacuation, with the pragmatic funct- 
ionaUty of the city builder, concerned 
less with helping people than with 
calculating the arrangements of their 

future dwellings. In the earthquake, 
though, the city builder sees nature's 
power to destroy even the most per- 
fectly-planned creation, and he boldly 
compares it to a "machine- wrecking 
bungler and a disheveled dreamer." 
To him, revolutions and natural dis- 
asters are holidays of the spirit that 
bring people together and allow them 
briefly to discard their roles before 

When Our Nausea 
Becomes Collective... 


routine reasserts its dominance. 

Because he is a shrewd student of 
society, the city builder knows that he 
and his fellow intellectuals are not 
alone in sharing the blame for injus- 
tice and misery. The City Builder is 
fundamentally a novel that deals with 
complicity and the psychic scars it 
inflicts on otherwise intelUgent, sen- 
sitive people. As our wretched cen- 
tury has demonstrated time and a- 
gain, almost everyone is willing to 
make a deal with oppression in ex- 
change for a suitable price. Towards 
the end of the book, the city builder 
descends into a cellar bar and som- 
berly meditates on its prior existence 
as an underground prison: "Remem- 
ber, decent craftsmen built torture 
chambers for modest wages and 
promised secrecy, knowing all along 
that it was their fellow citizens who 
would be put on the rack. (...) All the 
people who worked here ... could 
have refused the job. But they began 
to relish the idea of being able to do 
anything with a man who was some- 
body outside and nobody in here. ' ' He 
hints that these torturers were true 
professionals, well- versed in their 
specialized competence, and desirous 
of maintaining the power that had 
fallen to them in the division of labor. 

On the face of it, the relationship of 
the torturer to his victim is the most 
horrifying example of the reduction of 
human beings to abstract otherness. 
But in this relationship, the city 
builder uncovers a strange paradox, 
whereby each searches for the con- 
firmation of his humanity in the other: 
"...The victim must know that the 
tormentor, too, has a drop of that 
otherworldly fuel that he is trying to 
dry up in his prisoner." Absolute 
alienation is impossible; while we 
may be accomplices in each other's 
misery, we also depend on each other 
to exist. When individuals discover 
how to "look for reflections of (their) 
own fate in every puny organism," 
the tormenting separations between 
Self and Other will begin to crumble. 


A plain place, all tile and porcelain- 
airless, with an echoing of heels, 
prone to leakage, soiled 
in spite of constant disinfecting, 
ill-lit, paper-strewn... 

But also private, with a row of doors 
to dream behind, a row of doors 
to slam whenever a slamming's 

Near these, a row of sinks 
to rinse the day off our corporate hands. 
And how useful the mirrors are, 
reflecting a taut chin or a troubled brow, 
guiding as we powder them to 


Tears are welcome here, for men are not. 
Talk is welcome here, for no one works. 
Is it any wonder that we enter here so 

moved by needs more urgent 
than the ones the room was built for? 

No, my envyers, peering sidelong 
beyond the closing door.... 

It isn't vanity that draws us to the 

nor filth that keeps us in the stalls— 
we are here because of the trials of 

We are here for sanctuary. 

by Catherine Shaw 

The city builder's Other is his 
creation, the city, and by extension 
the lives of all its inhabitzmts, past 
and present, including those who 
shaped his own life — his wife 
and son, in particulgir. Despite his 
remorse at the harm his knowledge 
has caused, he refuses to sever his 
links to the city and join the perfect 
democracy of the dead. He knows that 
his intellect is as capable of healing as 
it is of wounding, that he has the 
power to "stretch (his) experiences 
until they resemble others'." In the 
centuries of its existence, his city has 
experienced all kinds of collective 
shgune — wars, murders, tortures — 
but its inhabitants have also known 
how to resist, to act in solidarity with 
their fellows, and to "begin work on 



• # • 


. . .THE BAD 

freedom by first demolishing their 
own obsessions." On this hope he 
pins his dreams for the uncertain 

The final scene depicts the eruption 
of a New Year's Eve celebration in the 
street of the city. A hallucinatory 
carnival of freedom, it sweeps away 
all social and institutional constraints. 
Wandering among the joyous cele- 
brants, the city builder exhorts them 
to "destroy the silent night, reclaim 
the world with joy, banish routine... 
live, don't snuff out your senses." In 
a masked crowd, roles lose their 
meaning, and at last the city builder is 
able to discard the artificial privileges 
of his position and become simply 
another human being taking part in 
an all-out assault on taboos, decorum, 
and order launched by "dazed van- 
dals... on the march." Just as the 
narrative is about to vanish in a wild 
whirl of fireworks and dancers, the 
celebration is cut off abruptly. In the 
end, it was a short-Uved festival, a 
"revolution of trumpets and horns" 
ushering in another year that will 
probably be no different than the last. 
The city builder will return to his job, 
brood about the past, and wait for 

death to claim him. Or else the 
celebration will inscribe itself into the 
city's collective memory, perhaps to 
return some day on a less ephemeral 

The plight of Konrad's city builder 
— and the dilemmas he faces — are 
similar to those confronted by all of us 
who are able to name our misery and 
even analyze its socio-economic ori- 
gins, but who are prevented by our 
isolation and ingrained habits from 
developing a consequential opposition 
to it. Overwhelmed by the weight of 
circumstances despite our best inten- 
tions, we often repress our knowledge 
that our work, our time, and even our 
deepest thoughts contribute to an 
intolerable situation. Unless we use 
this knowledge to speak openly about 
the objects of our labor, and about the 
kind of system that benefits from 
them, we will be reduced to silence, 
or at best impotent rebelHon an- 
swered only by general indifference. 
As George Konrad says, through his 
protagonist, "Defy them all amd say 
the word that takes your breath away 
(...) carve your ideas on tree-trunks, 
your freedom on blocks of ice." We 
must learn to take chances. 

— by Christopher Winks 






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directors. All of this was financed by 
the bank. 

As if this were not enough, the 
legal representation of these unions 
was guaranteed. The Federal Tribu- 
nal of Arbitration and Conciliation 
addressed only the demands of the 
company unions. The demands of 
democrats, the bankworkers them- 
selves, for recognition of their organ- 
ization went unheeded. Nor were the 
internal pressures by workers on their 
locals of any use. 

Despite their resources and five 
months of activity, the company 
unions have been unable to gain the 
support of those they claim to repre- 
sent. This was clear on February 17, 
1983, when the Union of Bankworkers 
of Credito Rural (Banrural) struck for 
several hours to demand the recog- 
nition (official registration) of their 

With this action, bankworkers set a 
precedent in the history of Mexican 
banking. This was the first time 
bankworkers resorted to the oldest 
form of struggle of wage-workers: the 

In this case, Banrural workers had 
already formed an organization, even 
before the bank gave the green light 
on unionization. The management of 
the bank had already formed an 
organization, even before the bank 
gave the green light on unionization. 
The management of the bank had 
already dealt with the organization as 
a union. But neither the strike nor 
subsequent mobilizations stopped the 
Federal Tribunal for Conciliation and 
Arbitration from officially registering 
the company union. 

Banrural, which has always given 
the peasants the worst possible deals, 

First-Ever Bankworker 
Strike in IVIexico 

Company unions, organized to con- 
tain and control bankworkers, are 
proving to be a bad investment for 
Mexican banks. Far from submitting, 
the workers have begun to mobilize — 
work stoppages, meetings and col- 
lective absenteeism are helping them 
consolidate their own organizations 
autonomously. Until now these or- 
ganizations have not been officially 

The banks' investment project con- 
sisted in a plan to enlist the 200,000 
bankworkers in the country into the 
new unions (called "sindicatos blsm- 
cos" in Mexico) through personnel 
departments of each bank. From one 
day to the next the personnel offices, 
formerly centers where unionists 
were punished and terminated, were 
converted into centers for union affili- 
ation. The resources available to them 
are limitless. 

This kind of "unionism" contrasted 
with what had been practiced until 
September 1, 1982. The old clandes- 
tine meetings, underground distribu- 
tion of propaganda, and limited funds 
were undermined by the "dynamic 
union militancy" of the newly arrived 

Converted into active unionists, the 
directors, bosses and managers of 
personnel departments improvised 
their unions with no risks and in great 
comfort: travel in the banks' airplanes 
(or in worst cases with commercial 
airlines), luxury hotels, convention 
centers, budgets for personal ex- 
penses, rented cars, and printing have 
been placed at the disposition of the 



has a long history of corruption and 
bad management. This lucrative rela- 
tionship provided the resources which 
allowed the bank to channel over 
three million pesos to promote the 
company unions last November. 

Instructions from bank directors to 
their personnel managers were pre- 
cise. One memo from early November 
states: "By means of this notice I am 
bringing to your attention the need for 
the Human Relations Dept. to partici- 
pate more directly in managing the 
unionization process of the workers of 
this institution." 

Nonetheless, the strike by union 
members at Banrural challenged the 
effectiveness of employers' attempts 
to disperse, reduce, and destroy the 
bankworkers' actions to gain the right 
to union self-determination. Demon- 
strations of worker discontent at 
Banrural reveal that with regard to 
workers' rights, force, and not just 
reason must prevail if workers de- 
mands are to be met. In this way 
bankworkers create their own history. 
Neither the channeling of resources to 
promote company unions against 
them, nor the continual threats of 
dismissal will stop this process. 

— from Proceso, Mexican weekly 

Getting Even Through 

Relatively few commit their crimes 
because they need the money, police 
and psychiatrists say. Whatever the 
motivation, authorities are reporting a 
near epidemic of female embezzlers. 
Among the women accused or convic- 
ted of bilking their Bay Area em- 
ployers out of huge sums in the last 

• A 37-year old cost-accounting 
manager of Nabisco, who admitted 
embezzling $2.1 million from her 
employer over the last 6V2 years. 

• A 33-year old loan officer at the 
Bank of America, charged with mak- 
ing loans totaling $650,000 to non- 
existent customers. 

• A 52-year old accountant forged 
375 checks from the general accounts 
fund of URS Corporation, for more 
than $2 million. 

• A 35-year old senior secretary at 
the Bank of America, arrested on 
charges she embezzled more than 
$451,000 during the last five years. 

"It's approaching an epidemic," 
said deputy U.S. attorney Peter Rob- 
inson. In 1982 he prosecuted more 
than 100 suspected embezzlers, about 
80% of them women. About 50 such 
cases is normal for an entire year. 
Robinson's figures don't include hun- 
dreds of cases prosecuted by county 
district attorneys or the numerous 
embezzlement schemes uncovered by 
companies and settled quietly when 
the employees make full restitution. 

A male embezzler, according to a 
criminal psychiatrist, typically steals 
because he needs the money to cover 
a dicey business deal, stock market 
speculation or a gambling habit. 
Women, on the other hand, are moti- 
vated by deep emotional and psycho- 


^Secretary of the Year^ 
On Probation as Thief 

ROCKVILLE, Md., May 3 (UPI) — 
The woman selected by a branch o( 
national company as "secretary of the 
year" had pleaded guilty to misappra* 
priating funds from a former employ- 
er, officials said today. 

The secretary, Kathy Cody, 29 years 
old» was placed on three years proba- 
tion by the Montgomery County Cir- 
cuit Court last week after admitting 
that she took $8,762 from the Gaithers- 
burg Health Center, a court spokes- 
man said. 

Two days earlier Miss Cody was 
named "secretary of the year" by the 
Gaithersburg branch of Manpower 
Temporary Service, a lar:ge secre- 
tarial company. 

The award said she "exceeded the 
highest level of proficiencies as a tem- 



logical needs, he says. ** Except for 
the amount of money involved, it's 
similar to shoplifting — the psycho- 
logical dynamics are the same." 

Some women turn to embezzlement 
to strike back at employers. One 
woman, according to court records, 
told a court-appointed psychiatrist 
she bilked the URS Corporation out of 
$2 million because she felt abused 
and unappreciated after 25 years with 
the firm. "Good old dependable me, 
someone who would work overtime, 
late into the evening, on weekends or 
go anywhere I was needed," is how 
she described herself in a letter 
accompanying her probation report. 
"They made you feel as though they 
were doing you a favor to keep you," 
she said. _ g^ Examiner 11/21/82 

New Carrot/ 
Old Stick 

On the factory floor, in the office, at 
school, and at home, increased "ef- 
ficiency" is being sought by sep- 
arating people from the conceptual- 
ization or control of their own activi- 
ties. Once-skilled craftspeople are 
now reduced to button-pushing 
' ' technicians . ' ' CapitaHst develop- 
ment seeks to make the whole of daily 
Hfe fit the predictable and systemized 
reality of the techno-elite's circuit- 
board fantasies. 

A number of trade-unionists, scho- 
lars and activists are addressing these 
authoritarian developments. The al- 
ternative being heard more and more 
is "workers' representation," which 
is offered to "democratize" produc- 
tion and undercut the dehumgmizing 
way modern technologies are being 
implemented. The best part of this 
strategy is its implied critique of the 
hierarchical relationships that perme- 
ate society. The most radical visions 
of workers' self-management propose 


sweeping social changes, changes 
that would give individuals decisive 
control over their social environment. 

Unfortunately, the most visible 
proponents of workers' representa- 
tion in the U.S. seem to be more 
concerned with the efficient integra- 
tion of workers into the existing 
productive apparatus. This perspec- 
tive is represented by the divergence 
between "Theory X" and "Theory 
Y" forms of management. (To a 
certain degree, this divergence para- 
llels the difference between U.S. and 
Japanese management styles.) 

According to "Y" theorists, people 
want to be productive and creatively 
involved in their work. If given the 
time, space, and resources, they will 
get the job done — faster, better, and 
cheaper than the workforce laboring 
under the watchful, authoritarigm eye 
of Theory X management. 

The movers and shakers of the 
hi-tech world are among the first in 
the ruling class to recognize that 
authoritarianism, whether chrome, 
computerized, or khaki, simply does- 

~ _ inner-voice 


n't work. A much more subtle and 
psychologically engaging form of so- 
cial order is needed to maintain the 
"free" enterprise system, and that 
form is "workers' control." Theory Y, 
then, has gotten its biggest test in the 
hi-tech world of computers, especially 
in software production. Here it has 
been found to work quite well, es- 
pecially in conjunction with profit- 
and stock-sharing plans, whereby the 
workers are able to "invest" their 
sweat and get a small piece of the 

Worker ownership and self-man- 
agement, while they can end overt 
authority regulating your work, nec- 
essarily lead to the internalization of 
management concerns, of the prob- 
lems of running a successful busi- 
ness. Grow or perish, the eternal 
imperative of capitalism, comes to 
dominate the plans and purposes of 
the participants in any "alternative" 
business, as they necessarily seek to 
become more like other businesses. 

Self-managed workers must per- 
form at competitive levels of produc- 
tivity (i.e. self-exploitation) for the 
company to succeed. Also, workers' 
control cannot guarantee job security. 
If the self-managed company doesn't 
reduce the labor component of its 
production costs through automation, 
the workers will necessarily have to 
work much harder to keep up with 
increases in productivity industry- 

A May 11th New York Times article 
about worker ownership illustrates 
this with some questions worker- 
owners face: What is the competition 
doing? How can the company com- 
pete with the Japanese and other 
foreign nations? Can wage increases 
be made now? If we forego wage 
increases, will that help the stock 
price? If dividends are raised, the 
stock price might go up. But the cost 
of raising the dividends might be a 
smaller wage increase. Yet if the 
stock price goes up, the company's 
credit rating might improve, making 

it able to borrow money at a lower 
interest rate for working capital and 
new plant and machinery invest- 

No matter how "fairly" paid or free 
from petty authoritarigmism self man- 
aged workers may be, the basics that 
comprise their workday don't 
change. Telephones, assembly lines, 
and computer work stations become 
the new supervisors. Workers' control 
does give workers a greater stake in 
the company that pays their wages 
but it does not provide any control 
over the nature of the work itself, why 
it needs to be done or for whom. The 
existing division of labor, and the 
existing choices of what work is worth 
doing, go completely unchallenged by 
strategies advocating greater worker 
participation in production and man- 
agement. One of the major ironies of 
workers' representation ideology is 
that in the U.S. it has been most 
discussed and implemented in areas 
of least real social utility — insurance, 
business software, and the "service" 
sector generally. Would people really 
derive more creative fulfillment from 
processing memos about dividends if 
they self-managed this work? Ad- 
ditionally, workers' control within 
companies doesn't change a system 
that generates more and more useless 
work at the same time as leaving more 
and more people unemployed. 

While workers' self-management 
blurs the lines of hierarchy in a given 
enterprise, it leaves the basic social 
arrangement intact. This is as true of 
"socialist" countries like Yugoslavia 
or Cuba, as it is of "self-managed" 
companies here. Self-management 
schemes allow workers to plan the 
details of executing their jobs, but the 
fundamental choices are still made 
higher up by corporate or state 
planners. The planners, in turn, make 
decisions in response to the pressures 
of the world market, i.e. global cap- 
italism. Besides nobody expects the 
really large blocks of capital to be- 
come self-managed — General Mo- 



tors, for instance, or the USSR. It is 
not merely work that needs to be 
"self-managed," but the whole of 
social life. And not this work or this 

life, but 

their complete transfor- 

— Nasty Secretary Liberation Front 



2. Avert Eyes 
From Flash 

Brace For 


Duck and 
Cover/ Place 
Over Head 

Medical at- 
tention For 

Have Food 
and Water 
For Several 
Weeks of is- 

7. Comfort 


Isolate corp- 
ses to pre- 
vent spread 
of disease 

This was originally done as a poster, designed to perfectly fit BART 
(Bay Area Rapid Transit) car emergency evacuation information 
instructions. Approximately 30 people simultaneously boarded BART one 
early morning last winter and placed the poster in countless trains and 
stations. Rumor has it that the placement of these bogus notices 
continues at random to this day. 



Workers' Controlled 

The main criticism I have of PW is 
its focus on what isn't revolutionary 
— without suggesting any positive 
project that might make things revo- 
lutionary. Mostly, readers get a sing- 
ular analysis of what wonH funda- 
mentally change their lives. The 
'Workers' Representation' leaflet con- 
tinues this tradition by only analyzing 
how workers' control is recuperated 
by capitalism. Following the same 
non-dialectical reasoning, as a self- 
managed publication, PW is a new 
scheme to placate office dissidents 
from translating their fantasies into 
radical practices. 

That simply isn't the case and 
neither is the notion that worker 
self-management will "necessarily 
lead to the internalization of manage- 
ment concerns." Such a one-dimen- 
sional view hides the real history of 
the flip side — how workers get 
out-of-control when they develop the 
power to do so. There are many 
historical moments which illustrate 
that when workers with a radical 
consciousness obtain some self-man- 
aged power, they externalize their 
own interests rather than internal- 
izing management concerns. Among 
numerous worldwide examples, the 
Pohsh uprisings of the 80 's are quite 
pertinent. Here is a strategy of revolt 
that utilizes self-management not on- 
ly at the workplace or as leverage 
against bureaucratic domination — 
but to fundamentally change the 
organization of production and distri- 
bution. The call for (and initial dev- 
elopment of) the 'active strike' exem- 
plifies this. The point of the Polish 
'active strike' was to sidestep state 
control by making production freely 
organized and utilized by those wor- 
kers and communities affected. 
Clearly, whether workers' control is a 
modern way to maintain capitaHsm or 
the breeding ground for larger rebel- 

lion largely depends on who creates 
the control. 

When workers' participation dev- 
elops from the leaders in the modern 
silicon world of microprocessing, the 
terrain for opposition is severely 
limited. One of the biggest problems 
is that the social background and 
relation to power for many white 
collar workers gives them a real 
interest in preserving capitalism and 
their position in it. But even if one 
only analyzes this sector, workers' 
control can translate into a number of 
possibilities. One is the sophistry of 
'participation' toward "...the efficient 
integration of workers into the exist- 
ing productive apparatus." But ano- 
ther possibility (among many quite 
unintended by the ruling class) is the 
replacement of the obedient worker 
with someone whose experience of 
greater power at the workplace en- 
genders a desire for more control in 
all aspects of life. Rising expectations 
tend to cultivate even higher de- 
mands. Indeed, 'quality of life' is 
precisely the new demand by the 
hi-tech worker/managers. And the 
demand isn't just for the oxymoron of 
'rewarding work,' but for an inte- 
grated package that includes: quality 
education, ecological preservation, 
and meaningful community. 

These demands for qualitative ful- 
fillment at and beyond the workplace 
have put management huns in a bind 
about organizational strategy. Par- 
ticularly in the U.S., they realize 
workers are increasingly hard to 
placate. Theory Y is as much an 
unwanted response to that bind as the 
ceaseless drive for production effi- 
ciency. To the extent the system 
cannot mee^ the new qualitative de- 
mands (e.g. toxic contamination of 
drinking water in the Silicon Valley or 
the psychological stress generally 
intensified in the micro-technologized 
workplace) these workers will be 
compelled to seek more radical, larger 

But if one looks beyond the hi-tech 



strata, which often aspire and are 
trained to cUmb the managerial lad- 
der and 'buy' the consumer package, 
the prospects become quite a bit more 
interesting. Of particular concern are 
those workers who have even less 
power and engage in socially useful 
production. Why wouldn't they derive 
creative fulfillment from the self- 
management of food and energy 
production, health care, or other 
human services? They may not now if 
they are aware of the global system 
dominating their lives. 

But for the majority who are forced 
to work to gain any power over their 
lives, workers' control must be an 
integral part in abolishing the socially 
unnecessary appendages of produc- 
tion-for-profit. A politics that only 
analyzes how workers' control can be 
employed to perpetuate business-as- 
usual simply is not dialectical. It 
negates those moments when the 
whole of social life has been radically 
changed through such organization. 
Is there no model for productive 
organization that isn't exploitative? 

That is a question PW has never 
attempted to answer. I think it is 
important to seek such answers be- 
cause they lead to the larger drama 
created by the limitations of workers' 
self-management. For instance, the 
need for workers' control to be linked 
with the popular control of community 
— whether it be based on geography, 
race, gayness, feminism, etc. As 
radicals we (hopefully) optimize the 
liberatory potential in all situations. 
Regarding workers' control, we 
should settle for nothing less than a 
workplace and society that practices 
direct democracy through general 
assemblies with instantly recallable 
delegates. Perhaps then, freely-de- 
termined activity will obliterate the 
age-old custom of forced work. 

— by Whitson of The Motleys 

Asleep On The Job? 

An assistant professor at the Har- 
vard Medical School, Charles A. 
Czeisler, in testimony before a Con- 
gressional hearing, cited studies 
showing people are capable of ap- 
pearing to be awake and functioning 
while their minds are asleep as 
measured by brain waves. "This fail- 
ure to cope with human factors may 
be the Achilles heel of modem indus- 
trial and military technology," he 

''Researchers in Sweden have doc- 
umented that train drivers fall asleep 
by brain wave criteria on one out of 
every six night runs. Nonetheless, the 
train drivers continue throughout 
such 'naps' to keep full pressure on 
the accelerator pedal, remaining un- 
responsive to red stop signals." 
Czeisler said the ability to stay awgike 
and alert at times the human body 
clock says the person should be 
sleeping — at 5 a.m. for example — 
bears little relationship to how much 
sleep the person has had. 

The purpose of the hearing was to 
accumulate a body of research that 
would be available to employers wan- 
ting to 

adjust their work schedules to the 
biological clock as much as possible. 

— Associated Press 




I picked up my last paycheck on 
Friday. Afterwards I passed by the 
usual crowd of bike messengers 
hanging outside Harvey's 5th Street 
Market, buying beers on credit and 
shooting the shit at the end of a 
working day. I turned the comer and 
entered an alley, where I ran into a 
young black woman, unkempt and 
shabbily dressed. She practically 
grabbed me for a handout, and some- 
one to spill to: 

"I was a good biker. I could fly — 
do 40 tags a day. And then they fired 
me — they fired me! I went in this 
afternoon, but they wouldn't hire me 
back. Nobody will hire me, and here I 
am in this alley now, reduced to... to 
PANHANDLING!" She screamed the 
last word, and went on. "I need a job! 
I'm going back to that motherfucker 
and say, 'I'll kill you motherfucker if 

you don't hire me back — I'll kill 

you...' " She raved on with spite, 
kicking eind screaming. It was useless 
for me to stand there with her longer. 
There was nothing I could do for her. 
I myself could fly on occasion, and 
make pretty good money at it when I 
wanted to. Yet when I was working, I 
felt oppressed by a different kind of 
poverty — a poverty of spirit, of time 
trapped. I worked over 40 hours a 
week, with plenty of unpaid duties. I 
would get home after dark with no 
energy left for gmything else. It was 
life on the run, without medical cov- 
erage, expendable, unprotected, easy 
prey to any maniac behind the wheel 
of a Cadillac or MUNI bus — any 
driver who doesn't believe in turn 
signals or decides to open his C2ir door 
at the wrong moment. I was vulner- 
able to horizontal showers in rainy 

PRorEssED nroPLD 



I race death through the streets, 
bicycling the blurred thread of self 
between buses and taxis, 
swerving away sharply 

from the harried rage 

of private cars idling to work 

not of our choosing, 

the illusion of careers 
tailspinning us all 
down the narrow funnel 
of Market Street. 

Friday. The weariness of the week 
brittles our bones, we greet each other 
with the smallest "Hello"s, 

while the word processors anxiously 

processed words not ours 
on non-stop forms 
of someone else's design, 
black and white, black and white... 

Morning. I've outraced death today, 
my goal, this blank screen... 

by David Steinberg 

season, and ticket-happy cops who 
hate bike messengers. I endured the 
hatred of men in 3-piece suits who 
depend on bike messengers zmd yet 
look upon them as something less 
than human. I challenge any of them 
to try being a bike messenger for even 
one day! 

I had never seen bike messengers 
before I had my first job in San Fran- 
cisco, as a legal file clerk/part-time 
secretary in the Financial District. I 
was fascinated and inspired by crazy 
long-hairs in propellered baseball 
caps, howling loud and long as they 
hurtled down hills. I saw a subculture 
in action as they zipped about the city 
on their one-speeds. I wanted to be a 
bike messenger! 

I landed a job with Fly By Night 
Messenger Service in June. There 
were days it was such fun that it 
hardly seemed like work, but after 
half a year and months into the rainy 
season, I lost most of my enthu- 

siasm. I felt I was wasting my days, 
chained to a dangerous dead-end job, 
and I knew I could do a lot more 
creative things with my time. 

The comforting delusion that I was 
at least making an honest living was 
amusingly shattered for me one day 
in November when I was dispatched 
to a law office in 1 Embarcadero 
Center for a return trip going to a 
copy service and back. A matronly 
secretary handed me a mguiila enve- 
lope marked with strident instructions 
for the copy service: that this was the 
third try, to color-xerox it, and could 
they please get it right this time. She 
also handed me a five dollar bill. I 
arrived at the copy service in the 
basement of a building on California 
Street and perused through maga- 
zines while waiting. I overheard snat- 
ches of conversation from the back 
room — that these were transcripts, 
so both sides needed to be registered 
perfectly. That seemed odd, and I 
asked the woman behind the counter 
why transcripts would need to be 
color-xeroxed. She confided to me 
that they were the lady's daughter's 
high school transcripts, and a couple 
of grades needed to be "changed," 
and that color-xerox was the only way 
to duplicate it to look authentic. 

"In other words it's called cheat- 
ing," I said. 

"She keeps sending it back to us, 
bugging us to get it right. We're 
making money off it, so why should 
we complain?" she answered. 

I felt like a partner in crime. I got 
the completed transcripts, had the tag 
signed, and was off with the return, hi 
the elevator, to satisfy my own curi- 
osity, I opened the unsealed envelope 
£uid had myself a look. Sure enough, 
two tiny "C" 's were pasted on the 
original transcript. The copy looked 
perfect, as if it had been printed that 
way. I peeled the C's off, revealing 
two "F" 's underneath. For a mo- 
ment, I thought of aborting the 
mission, but realized I couldn't be 



that moralistic either. I was part of the 
scam, and had an extra five doUsir bill 
in my pocket. It was such a mild scam, 
but symptomatic nonetheless, and I 
was thinking, "I don't even want to 
know what's inside the rest of the in- 
nocuous-looking manila envelopes I 

Like most delivery services. Fly By 
Night did not pay its bikers an hourly 
wage. Pay was based on a strict 
commission — a percentage of the 
delivery cost. That mezmt having to 
bust your ass to make any kind of 
Uvable wage. When you tried your 
bloody best to go fast and make 
money, everything and everybody 
seemed to be doing their best to slow 
you down. In such situations I oc- 
casionally lost my temper (eind per- 
haps supported certain people's as- 
simiptions that bike messengers £ire 
indeed something other th£in human.) 

For instance, I have the distinction 
of having been banned from the 
Pacific Telephone Company building 
at 666 Folsom Street. PT&T offices 
are a bike messenger's nightmare. 
Each "room" is like a labyrinth: a 
whole floor of partitions, each be£u*ing 
a different room number. Room 500-F 
might be next to room 512-G, but 
nobody can tell you where any of the 
other room numbers are. I was in a 
hurried mood on a busy afternoon, 
and I had to pick up a super-hot 
payroll delivery on the 8th floor at 666 
Folsom, rush it over to smother PT&T 
building on 3rd Street, get it signed 
and then rush the return back over to 
666, nonstop. Most phone compgmy 
buildings make you sign in and out; a 
cimibersome process if one is in a 
hurry. I signed in and out at 666, flew, 
and was back at 666 in 5 minutes with 
the return, emd refused to sign in 
again. The lobby guard, a short, 
grouchy man with a pencil-mous- 
tache, was furious that I actually just 
walked right by him, completely dis- 
regarding the rules. 

"Come back here! You have to sign 
into the building!" 

' 1 just signed in 5 minutes ago, and 
I'm not going to sign in again. This is 
a super-rush that has to get there 

"Well if you signed out last time, 
you have to sign in agsdn!" I was 
struck with the absurd logic that if I 
had not signed out the last time, I 
would not have to sign in again this 
time. I ignored him and boarded the 
elevator, and he immediately gave 
chase, stopping the elevator before it 
could move. Another boimcer-type 
appeared out of nowhere to assist him 
in removing me from the elevator, 
where I stood defiant and a few 
secretaries stood surprised, their rou- 
tine interrupted. The guard led me 
back to his station, tow£irds the door, 
and said, "You're never allowed back 
in this building again!" 

I laughed back at him. "That's fine 
— I hate this building anyway, and 
would never come here if I didn't have 

"By your conduct," he stormed, 
"you're showing that you have no 
respect for the phone company and 
its employees!" 

"You're dsunn right. I have no 

^-^^l*" { 



respect for the phone company at 
vii!" How I had always wanted to say 
that! I thrust the package at him and 
said, "Since you won't let me up- 
stairs, you'll have to do the delivery 
yourself. They're in room 880. Get 
hot!— They're dying on it!" 

On another day, truth serum ran 
deep when I went into Crgink Litho, 
one of Fly By Night's biggest ac- 
counts. Crank got anything it wanted: 
till 5:15 p.m. to call in overtimes, 
instead of 5:00, and a handsome price 
break of $1.25 per delivery instead of 
the $2.00 we normally charged. They 
generated enough business so that 
Fly By Night could turn a tidy profit, 
but we messengers were the ones 
getting screwed. We even had to 
chronicle our own oppression by 
adding the price of the delivery to the 
tag, which we never had to do for 
anyone else. Most of us bikers re- 
sented this insult — I remember that 
one guy, whenever dispatched to 
Crank, would always emit an obnox- 
ious foghornish "Rog!" over the 
radio, instead of the customary 

One day I showed up to work 
wearing a large button I had fash- 
ioned, that read "I V Crank Litho's 
Prices! ' ' , and managed to cause quite 
an uproar in their office without even 
saying a word. Later that day when I 
was back, the president of the com- 
pany pulled me aside and said, "I 
would appreciate it if you don't wear 
that button anymore." I smiled, and 
calmly removed the button. 

On the return trip, I encountered 
the man next in charge (who handled 
the business end of the account with 
Fly By Night), emd he shit a brick 
when he saw the delivery cost — 
$11.25 for an overtime rush — and at 
first refused to sign the tag. He called 
up my office and bitched for a few 
minutes, then hung up and turned to 
me. "I'll sign it, but I'm going to take 
it up with your boss in the morning. 
How do you figure your price for 
overtime deliveries? Your regular 

price is $1.25 — " 

I cut him off, sensing the oppor- 
tunity. " — Our regular price is $2.00. 
You guys are getting a break at $1.25, 
which I think is scandalous, but that's 
from my point of view as a biker. ' ' He 
looked surprised, yet surprised me by 
saying that he could understand it 
from my point of view. Of course, not 
another word was ever said about the 

Around that s£ime time I knew my 
days as a bike messenger were 
numbered. My attitude was garnering 
numerous complaints from miffed 
customers, and I started taking days 
off to refund my seinity. The taste of 
life off the treadmill just made me 
more dissatisfied. The rainy season 
was becoming endless, and my favor- 
ite dispatcher was now out on bike; 
obviously the result of a power- 
struggle. The boss had frequently 
complained that he was being much 
too close with the bikers, telling us 
things about the company £ind about 
our paychecks that we weren't sup- 
posed to know. I had fond memories 
of late evenings when he was behind 
the boards, when a few of us would 
have our own little * 'proletarian office 
parties," when the office was ours 
and we spent hours bitching about the 
bosses, or got crazy 2ind sent me out 
with bike and radio, Eind dispatched 
me out for coffee and donuts. Some- 
body had to pull the plug soon. My 
boss got to it before I did, and I was 

About a week before I got the jerk 
to the big desk in the back office and 
the ax c£ime down, I had taken an 
unsolicited day off — it was storming 
2md I felt miserable. The next day, a 
rare sunny one I arrived early, feeling 
better and ready to roll. The boss, 
trying to put the fear of authority into 
me, said, "I'm not ready to let you 
roll. I haven't decided what I'm going 
to do with you! Come back tomor- 
row." (It was too obvious to me what 
he would have done with me had it 
been raining as usual.) I figured 


PAQr€55E[] (TOiMD 

myself fired, aind wasted no time 
getting out of there. Walking up 
Kearny Street that same morning, 
with a spring in my step, enjoying the 
sun without having to * 'get hot" ; I felt 
like somebody had unlocked the door 
of my jail cell, woke me gently and 

said, "You're free to go." 

— by Zoe Noe 

Author's note: Some of the names 
have been changed to protect the 
guilty. But it's not that I wanted to 
single anybody out or hide the truth 
— that they 're all Fly By Night. —ZN 

I got off the bike. 

I took a journey up Kearny, 

got weary by Geary, 

drank a beer on Spear, 

snnoked a joint on North Point, 

and lost my way on Clay. 

I'm looking handsome on Sansome 

and feeling wholesome on Folsom. 

I met a coward on Howard 

who lives in a garrison on Harrison, 

and a sailor on Taylor 

who lives in a gutter on Sutter. 

We drank tonics on Masonic, i^ 

met the Hulk on Polk, ^^ 

who was straight on Haight 

but turned gay on Bay. 

We met a witch on Pitch 

who reads the Tarot on DeHaro^ 

and tried to save us on Davis. 

I saw a politician on Mission 

who made a speech on Beach 

about a welfare cheat on Treat v # 

who uses food stamps to buy wine on Pine. 

I saw a Giant on Bryant 

who teamed up w/ a 49er on Steiner, 

& went around beating up Dodgers on Rodgers 

and Raiders on Shrader 

(not to mention Lakers on Baker 

and A's on Hayes). ^^j^ 

You met a whore on Dore ^^ 

who tried to rent'cha on Valencia; . ) 

I used to ball her on Waller, 4r Jl 

& we'd fuck some on Bluxome, ^10 j 

& she would give great moans on Jones, 

& would always come on Drumm. W 

I remember you well — you drove a bus on Russ 

until It lost a wheel on Beale, 

& then you used to park it on Market. 

"Did I get your package to you quick enough, sir?" 

"Thanks, Zoe Noe, You're humble and lovable." 

"Fuck you, sir!" 

by Zoe Noe 




Being a temporary office worker 
occasionally gives me interesting op- 
portunities to learn about the inner 
workings of the corporate world. I 
recently finished a temporary assign- 
ment at Blue Shield of CaUfornia 
where I had the opportunity to learn 
some very interesting things indeed. 

Blue Shield was one of the first 
companies in San Francisco with 
unionized clerical workers - repre- 
sented by the Office and Professional 
Employees International Union Local 
#3 (OPEIU). In September 1982, 
however, Blue Shield announced 
plzms to move operations out of San 
Francisco and, in the process, fire its 
entire clerical staff and break the 

From December, 1980 to April, 
1981, the OPEIU led a strike against 
Blue Shield. Processed World #1 
included a critique of the Blue Shield 
situation: "OPEIU is affiUated with 
the AFL-CIO, and it pledges alle- 
giance to the labor laws of the U.S. in 
its constitution. These laws impose 
severe limits on what workers and 
unions can do to achieve their de- 
mands (for instance, it is illegal to 
occupy a workplace). Their primary 
tactic in this confrontation with Blue 
Shield is the strike.... Out on the 
picket lines, however, workers no 

longer control the machines £ind data 
banks that are in their control daily 
when they are on the job. This divests 
them of the tremendous leverage they 
would have if they stayed in the 
offices and prevented their replace- 
ment by scabs." 

Based on files I saw, memos I tj^ed 
Emd conversations I overheard, I can 
offer the following confirmation and 
elaboration of PW's critique of the 
OPEIU approach. 

Overt and Covert Reasons for the 

Blue Shield is in some ways 
unique among service sector indus- 
tries. Technically, it is a non-profit 
organization. That fact, combined 
with the competitiveness of the health 
insurance industry, means that Blue 
Shield has little opportunity to create 
"working capital" which can be in- 
vested in long-range plans or opera- 
tional improvements. "Doing it as 
cheap as possible" is the corporate 
philosophy. This is typical of the 
non-profit management mentality. No 
matter how liberal their programs 
may be, non-profits provide notori- 
ously bad wages and working condi- 

So Blue Shield grew, and data 
processing and clerical functions be- 



came increasingly complex, the vari- 
ous clerical departments multiplied 
without rationalization or planning. 
The whole realm of "management 
support" functions is nearly absent at 
Blue Shield — training, operations 
standards, work-flow monitoring, etc. 
The clerical jobs themselves are so 
complex as to defy belief. Blue Shield 
seems to have finally recognized this 
by allowing for more than three 
months of training for the employees 
to be hired at the new location. The 
current clerical staff never received 
training this extensive and if they had 
their jobs would have been more 

As a result of this spontaneous, 
unplanned growth. Blue Shield man- 
agement literally did not know what 
was going on within their own bureau- 
cracy. The knowledge of how to 
process claims and all the other 
paperwork was in the heads of the 
workers, undocumented in any other 
form. A good number of these 
workers are Asian and Black women 
and from Blue Shield's point of view, 
they have a "communication prob- 
lem" because, for many, English is 
not a native language. So the critical 
storehouse of operational information 
that Blue Shield workers had was 
even more inaccessible to manage- 

Blue Shield finally appreciated this 
vulnerability at the time of the strike 
in 1981. Consequently, the motivation 
behind the relocation has to be seen 
as not merely to break the union. It is 
also part of a concerted effort to 
establish full management control 
over clerical production and thereby 
end the dependence of management 
on worker knowledge. One part of this 
involves more training, supervision, 
and standardization of procedures. A 
second part, of course, involves get- 
ting rid of the current workers. 

But in this light, the relocation has 
to be looked at more closely. Gaining 
control over clerical functions means 
that the "communication problem" 

has to be overcome. That is, of 
course, communication FROM Blue 
Shield TO workers. Blue Shield needs 
workers who will receive and conform 
to management controls, who will 
follow management's standardized 
procedures, and not their own. Non- 
native users of English are not only 
unfamiliar with specialized corporate 
jargon, they may be equally unfamili- 
ar with corporate thinking patterns. 
That is, the skills of abstract, objec- 
tive thinking — what is involved in 
translating years of job experience 
into standard procedural language — 


If only my kids] 
were as predictable. 
las this machine... 



may not come easily to those who 
have not spent 16 years in the 
American system of education. A 
Third World clerical worker may know 
very well how to do a job, but not have 
the particular language skills to put it 
into words or writing. 

So addressing the "communication 
problem" boils down to getting rid of 
workers who cannot conform to this 
use of the English language. Which of 
course means minority workers. Blue 
Shield wouldn't necessarily have to 
fire all minority workers if it was 
willing to pay higher wages to attract 
non-white workers who've been 



through the American public educa- 
tion system. But Blue Shield wants to 
retain its "cheap as possible" philo- 
sophy and so has addressed the lan- 
guage problem without paying higher 

To do that, Blue Shield had to find a 
white labor market willing to accept 
its wages. This is why Lakeport, a 
resort town on Clear Lake, has been 
chosen as the site of the relocation. 
Blue Shield's intent is clear. While 
there are bigger California cities with 
a largely white work force (say, 
Sacramento or Redding) , only a small 
town could provide both white wor- 
kers AND a depressed level of wage 

Blue Shield's relocation is not only 
motivated by an anti-union ideology, 
it is clearly racist as well. I found this 
conclusion continually reinforced dur- 
ing my time at Blue Shield by 
managers who made references like 
"THE Filipinos" and told bald jokes 
based on mimicking Asian accents. 

How the Union Helped Blue Shield 
Bust the Union 

"We learned a lot during the 
strike" is the comment I heard Blue 
Shield managers make. 

What Blue Shield learned was all 
the detailed job knowledge that had 
previously been "in the heads' ' of the 
workers. Blue Shield used the four 
months of the strike to begin develop- 
ing a management system to end this 
dependence. Without the strike. Blue 
Shield would never have been able to 
fire its workers and move out of San 
Francisco because until the strike 
Blue Shield managers had no idea 
how to run their own business. 

The OPEIU never seemed to ap- 
preciate this source of worker lever- 
age, nor did it understand how the 
introduction of rationalized manage- 
ment controls would undermine the 
workers' position. In fact, the union's 
own bureaucratic approach contri- 



buted to the standardization process. 
Unionization provided both the incen- 
tive and the means for Blue Shield to 
rid itself of its SF workers. 

Even after the relocation was an- 
nounced the union might have been 
able to obtain concessions by adopt- 
ing a stand of "non-cooperation" that 
would have made it more difficult for 
Blue Shield management to extract all 
the information needed to effectively 
set up operations in the new location. 
But, needless to say, it did not do so. 
Nevertheless, some workers on their 
own are apparently engaging in unco- 
ordinated forms of non-cooperation — 
records and data are being intention- 
ally "fouled up." Blue Shield mana- 
gers blame the union, of course, but 
that's not only unfair to the union — 
which has never endorsed such tactics 
— but unfair to the workers as well, 
who have undertaken these activities 
on their own creative initiative, in 
defigmce of both management and 
union authorities. 

The Taboo Issue 

Another source of worker leverage 
was also left unexplored by the 
OPEIU. The S2ime poor management 
(by corporate standards) that allows 
workers at Blue Shield to consolidate 
operational knowledge, also results in 
fiscal losses of hundreds of thousands 
of dollars every year (according to 
estimates I overheard) . In the absence 
of adequate controls, losses due to 
errors and fraud are rampant. 
For most corporations today, con- 
trolling quality, costs and losses is the 
"profit edge." One would think that 
Blue Shield's penny-pinching mana- 
gers would shudder at these losses. 
But in fact, their own "cheap as 
possible" philosophy is the cause of 
these losses. 
The union might have been able to 
do something with this issue, by 
taking advantage of the unique posi- 
tion the workers had because of their 
knowledge of operations. Today, 

many companies are using the Japan- 
ese "quality circle" programs to tap 
the knowledge of their workers by 
teaching them a few basic manage- 
ment techniques that they can use to 
solve on-the-job problems. What if 
the Blue Shield union took this initia- 
tive themselves, retaining worker 
control of job knowledge by intro- 
ducing quality circle concepts itself? 
The concession from memagement 
would have to be the distribution of 
recovered losses in the form of wages 
and benefits to workers, and, pos- 
sibly, worker representation on Blue 
Shield's board of directors. 
That, of course, raises the debate 
over worker self-management. Rather 
than delve into that here, I will just 
point out one way the issue of Blue 
Shield mis-management could have 
been used by the OPEIU that circum- 
vents the self-management issue. 

Normally consumers could care less 
whether a company is well managed 
or not when they decide to buy one of 
its products. But in' the case of health 
insurance, consumers are aware that 
the cost of their coverage is based on 
risk tables which are pretty much 
standard for the insurance industry, 
PLUS the cost of administrative over- 
head. This suggests that Blue Shield 
customers would have just as big a 
stake in seeing losses controlled as do 
the underpaid workers of Blue Shield. 
If the union addressed this issue, it 
would be aligning itself directly with 
consumer interests and raise the 
possibility of a new alhance that 
increased worker leverage. 

But of course, the OPEIU took a 
typically short-sighted stand in re- 
gards to the whole area of quality 
control and management productivity 
plans. That is, they simply opposed 
them outright. This position pretty 
much eliminates workers from play- 
ing a role in this crucizd area of their 
jobs — it falls, be default, into the 
prerogatives of management. And in- 
evitably management will find ways 
of preventing losses, and keep the 



profits for themselves, leaving work- 
ers with the yoke of ever increasing 
supervision and productivity stan- 
dards over which they have no con- 


Few companies allow workers the 
opportunities Blue Shield did for 
gaining control of operational know- 
ledge. But the Blue Shield experience 
suggests that the arbitrary division of 
labor in corporations can be to work- 
ers' advantage any time it removes 
management from essential details of 
how to do the work. This was the point 
made in Processed World #i;whatever 
power workers have today derives 
from the control they have over 
production while on the job. Within 
the bureaucracies of the service sec- 
tor, this means the knowledge work- 
ers have of the often complex clerical 
and data handling work they do. 
When managers lack this knowledge 
they are dependent on clerical 
workers. Workers should be exploring 
ways of maximizing this power, treat- 
ing information itself as a source of 
leverage within the corporations. 

The real nature of corporate "com- 
munications" — the jargon, policies, 
procedures, manuals and training 
programs — needs to be understood 
as a means of subverting worker 
power by instituting a form of lan- 
guage control — which is to say, 
thought control. When this occurs in 
the context of culturally diverse office 
workers, this has to be understood as 
inherently racist. Management pre- 
occupation with the "language bar- 
rier" translates into the "race barri- 
er" and "communication problems" 
mean "race problems." If racism 
were not involved, corporations might 
deal with cultural diversity by hiring 
more minority managers and super- 
visors and increasing language capa- 
bilities throughout their organiza- 
tions, "covering all the bases" as it 
were. But racism is, in fact, a clear 

motivation behind the enforcement of 
language and communications stan- 
dards in the corporate world. Fighting 
these forms of social control on the job 
is not just a matter of liberal civil 
rights ideals. Language control not 
only discriminates against minority 
workers, it directly undermines work- 
er power. Unions could fight racism 
and build worker leverage at the same 
time by putting the "language barri- 
er" issue on their agendas. 

The possibility of alliances betwene 
consumers and service sector workers 
deserves consideration. People con- 
sider things like health insurance, 
checking accounts, insurance, driv- 
ers' licenses, and telephones to be 
necessities. But there's little "free- 
dom of choice" in obtaining these 
services. They're typically provided 
by massive, unresponsive bureaucra- 
cies. And these same bureaucratic 
organizations create alienating and 
exploitive job conditions for clerical 

Above all, the case of Blue Shield 
reveals the need for a new approach 
to organizing office workers. The 
strike tool is no longer effective when 
modern communications make it pos- 
sible for companies to locate clerical 
operations anywhere. Processed 
World's critique of the Blue Shield 
strike stands — a new kind of worker 
leverage within the corporate world 
must be found — and used. 

A brief postscript from Lucius Cabins, 
author of past Blue Shield coverage: 

There are a few important dif- 
ferences between the analysis Debra 
Wittley makes and the one I made in 
PW rs 1 and 2. First of all, I think 
that offering strategic advice to the 
unions is hopeless {especially to 
OPEIU which has been unusually 
myopic with respect to this case). DW 
is right when she says "a new kind of 
worker leverage within the corporate 
world must be found — and used,'' 



but PW has featured a number of 
articles in different issues which 
attempted to describe the role of 
unions in bolstering the status quo 
and preventing new forms of leverage 
from being developed. I don H expect 
unions to be of much help to any office 
workers interested in seriously under- 
mining the domination we experience 
daily. What's more, as the Blue 
Shield case amply demonstrates, 
most unions cannot even guarantee 
"the basics'' like protecting jobs and 
improving work conditions. 

Wittley also suggests that self- 
management through employee rep- 
resentation on the Board of Directors 
and the establishment of Quality 
Circles might have improved working 
life for Blue Shield workers. Although 
putting an end to the authoritarianism 
of managers is a real need, the fact 
remains that the actual work they do 
is inherently useless (the processing 

of health insurance data) and no kind 
of self-management can change the 
purpose of Blue Shield in society. For 
a somewhat longer discussion of the 
problems of the self-management 
strategy, see "Workers' Represen- 
tation: New Carrot/Old Stick" in this 

Finally, Wittley dismisses the 
strike weapon categorically, but 
there 's more than one kind of strike. 
There is an important distinction 
between legal strikes, which disem- 
power workers by taking them outside 
on picket lines and separating them 
from the production they otherwise 
control, and the extra-legal possibili- 
ties of wildcat and occupational 
strikes, under the control of the 
workers themselves. 

Nevertheless, Wittley 's article is an 
excellent expose of the all too typical, 
racist practices of corporate manage- 
ment. Thanks for sending it in. 





Paul w^aiited to do right. No matter 
how radiGally he talked with his own 
friends, and this was quite radical 
indeed, he no sooner got in an office 
than he felt he was in First Grade 

"Good morning Angela," he'd say 

"Good morning Paul," his super- 
visor would reply in a breathy voice. 

Then Paul would march briskly to 
his desk which was lined up next to all 
the other desks just like in First 
Grade, only now the desks were 
bigger and had typewriters or word 
processors on them instead of ink- 
stands. Without another word, Paul 
would remove his suitcoat, fold it 
carefully, place it in the lower left 
drawer and begin typing insuremce 

Every week or so a birthday party 
was held in the lunchroom to break 
the tedium and on St. Patrick's Day, 
anyone who didn't wear green was in 
danger of being pinched by Suzi, a 
simple but jovial woman who came 
through the office several times a day 
to pick up mail deliver policies that 
had been requested. Paul liked Suzi 
and she seemed pleased that he joked 
with her. 

PAUL: "I bet you just come by my 
desk to steal my paperclips." 

SUZI: "That's right. I sell 'em on 
the Black Market." 

At first it was fun. Owing to a rich 
aunt's will, Paul hadn't needed to 
work much since college. He still 
didn't but was doing so to raise 
money to publish a gay literary 
magazine. This was what pulled him 
from the pleasant isolation of his 
bookish apartment eind from the Cafe 
Flore where he like to eirgue politics 
every afternoon. 

Could Paul Buell, poet and member 
of the Radical Faeries Collective, 
successfully face the challenge of San 
Francisco's Finsmcial District? Could 
he prove to himself, if not his Dad, 
that it was simply by choice, not 
inability, that he wasn't a full-time 
wage earner? Worker! How Romantic 

22 and tied up for life 



the word sounded to this dreamy- 
eyed man of 25. Not only would he 
raise money for his mag, he would 
make alliemces with other workers and 
radicalize the workplace. That's what 
he thought at first smyway. 

The first job Paul got was at a 
Market Research Company. The pay 
was only $4 an hour for interviewers 
bu the 3 to 9 shift left him time to hit 
the bars at night to unwind yet wake 
up in time to read and write for 
several hours before heading to work. 
His co-workers were students, hip- 
pies, aspiring comedieins or writers 
like himself, a bright emd interesting 
lot. The tiny cubicles they phoned 
from gave the illusion of privacy, 
though Mrs. Smith could tap into 
their lines at any time to make sure 
they were conducting the interviews 

The ethics of nosing into people's 
private lives bothered Paul at first but 

as Jim, the friend who'd found him 
the job, argued: "People can always 
hang up. Besides, you often get old 
folks grateful for anyone to talk to." 
This was fine for surveys on tennis 
shoes or beer but a survey on Three 
Mile Island troubled Paul deeply. 

Think hack to when you first 
heard of the nuclear accident at 
TMI. What did you feel? Were 
you angry. . . scared? How did you 
feel when you learned the offi- 
cials had lied about the accident? 
"We know this is a sensitive 
topic," Mrs. Smith droned during the 
briefing, enunciating slowly as if 
speaking to a class of retarded chil- 
dren. "So make sure you ask all 
questions exactly as written on your 
sheets. Don't try to influence the 
respondents in any way whatsoever. 
"Who paid for this survey?" Paul 

"Just say you work for Bond 



Research and that this is a bona fide 
public opinion research project. Say 
you don't know who the cHent is. If 
the respondent persists, tell them to 
call the number at the top of your 

"But who is the client?" Paul 
insisted. At this, Mr. Hoffsteader, the 
office manager, interrupted angrily. 

"The door swings both ways Buell. 
If ya can't follow instructions, get 

Paul had seen Hoffsteader can up 
to five interviewers in one night. One 
woman was fired for laughing, ano- 
ther for being 15 minutes late. An 
interviewer who'd been with Bond for 
three years was fired for asking for a 
raise. So Paul bided his time and shut 

The first interview went smoothly 
enough but during the second, the 
elderly widow Paul was questioning 
broke down in tears. "I didn't worry 
so much about myself," she sobbed. 
"But I kept thinking about my two 
little grandchildren. Even if they 
lived, what kind of life would they 
have? Then, when they had us set to 

evacuate and I didn't know if I could 
ever return hom or not — then they 
told me I couldn't take my little dog 
with me. I was just sick." 

Even more disturbing was the 
response of an undertaker. "The 
govt, folks took us aside and told what 
we could expect if there was a 
meltdown. It was godawful, a million 
times worse than anything they told 
the public. Fifty thousand might die 
immediately, they said, and we'd 
have to scoop 'em up in plastic bags. I 
tell ya, soon as I get enough money 
saved I'm movin' my whole family to 

But most astonishing were people's 
answers to the second part of the 
questionnaire. Despite how scared 
and angry most Harrisburg residents 
felt, over half said nuclear plants 
shouldn't be shut down. "We need 
the power and just hafta accept the 
risks of living in the modern age." 
Many added, "I'm a Christian. When 
my time comes I'm ready." 

Paul couldn't understand how peo- 
ple could be so fatalistic, so schizo- 
phrenic. He decided he couldn't work 



for these "unknown clients" any- 
more. They were using such surveys 
to manipulate people to act against 
their own survival. He wanted to 
scream at Hoffsteader and Mrs. 
Smith "You're no better than Nazi 
bureaucrats!" but he couldn't muster 
a sound. If he did, terrible things 
would happen. He would be seen as 
the bad one, the one who caused 
trouble, the one who couldn't play by 
the rules. What he most deeply feared 
though was being fag-baited, having 
Hoffsteader sneer at him that he was 
just a "hysterical sissy." 

Paul remembered what his grade 
school gym coach did when he once 
put a flower in his hair. Coach Fox 
glared down scornfully, his belly a 
heaving mountain of contempt in a 
white tee shirt. 

"Well aren't you a little cutsie 

Everyone laughed. 
"Any you guys wanna give our 
little cutsie pie a kiss?" 

Paul bit his lip. No use. Tears 
flooded down his cheeks like lava, ftis 
ears burned with everyone's laughter 
and the nastiness of Coach Fox's 
mincing voice. 

"Aw look, our poor little cutsie 
pie's startin' to cry. Guess he's a 
crybaby too." 

Ever since that day Paul remained 
shy and aloof. He could write about 
injustice but he couldn't speak up 
about it in group situations. So Paul 
left Bond Research quietly, furious at 
himself because he was afraid to risk 
Hoffsteader 's sarcasm and a bad job 
recommendation . 

Now he typed for various insurgmce 
companies. The woman at the temp 
agency said he could take time off 
whenever he wanted but, just as 
before, he was constantly pressured 
to work overtime, to be loyal to the 
agency, to be polite Eind obedient 
whatever the provocation. Anxious to 
please, Paul did as he was told. For 
three months now he'd been typing 
for the Chancy Insurance Under- 

writing Department. The underwri- 
ters and supervisors were all white; 
the secretaries, save for him, all 
Filipino immigrants. 

At first the office seemed as bright 
and sunny as its orange £ind yellow 
decor. Beneath a large mountain lake 
mural which covered one wall of the 
lunchroom, secretaries leaned for- 
ward and gossiped in Tagalog. To 
Paul, they sounded as carefree as 
birds. What did American voices 
sound like to them? A chorus of frogs? 
After a couple of months, Paul asked 
Ginny, the secretary who sat next to 
him, what she'd like to do if she could 
do anything in the world. 

"Leave this place forever!" 

Ginny smiled but there was an 
unexpected bitterness in her voice 
that roused Paul from his dreaminess. 
He began to see office relationships in 
a different light. Even Suzi's jokes 
had an edge he hadn't noticed before, 
the way she spoke of "Blue Mon- 
day," for instance, and laughed. 
Where 'd he heard that laugh before? 
The old Harrisburg widow he'd inter- 
viewed about TMI — she'd laughed 
with the same quiet desperation after 
saying "Well, guess we gotta have 
the electricity." The lunchroom mural 
took a sinister, mocking quality as if it 
were painted on Coach Fox's chest. 
Paul wanted to quit but Angela talked 
him into staying. 

"You're the best typist we've got," 
she gushed, playing on Paul's need 
for approval. She legmed over until he 
could smell her perfume. "I'm a 
writer too and I wanna buy a copy of 
your magazine when it's out. I knew 
you were remarkable when you first 
started here. You were always read- 

Paul blushed. Merely to have 
shown up at Bond Research with a 
book would have been grounds for 
dismissal. Business people hate to see 
workers read, even on breaks, be- 
cause anyone who reads is liable to 
think and thinking can only lead 
to trouble. 



Flattered by Angela's praise, Paul 
was also bothered by it. By accepting 
her description of him as "the best 
worker," wasn't he in some sense 
betraying the others? But what could 
he do? He wanted to agitate for a 
union, to bring the novels of Carlos 
Bulosan or other radical Filipino 
writers into the office but he was 
afraid to act, afraid to speak, afraid to 
do anything to lower Angela's opinion 
of him. Feeling hypocritical, Paul 
worked all the harder, becoming even 
more quiet and withdrawn. 

Angela's effusive profession of 
friendship, however, was soon belied 
by her action. Paul was moved to 
another desk in the middle of the 
office where the typewriter sat too 

"I'm sorry," Angela said mourn- 
fully, "but it's the only desk we have. 
We need your old one for a new 
secretary who's starting tomorrow." 
Then she gave him a huge stack of 
pencilled forms to type which left him 
with bloodshot eyes, a headache and a 
sore back every night. Yet this very 
discomfort gave Paul strength. 

One morning. Bill Paganini, a 
potbellied underwriter given to fre- 
quent tantrums, began screaming at 
Ginny. "Goddammit! You're always 
getting my phone messages screwed 
up." Ginny lowered her eyes as the 
sole woman underwriter CEune weakly 
to her defense. 

"Calm down Bill. Ginny can't help 
it if she can't speak English as good as 

Then a new voice entered the fray. 

"Did your ancestors come here 
speaking English Bill?" 

The office was stunned. Was quiet 
Paul suddenly confronting the head 
underwriter? Paul's forehead per- 
spired as Paganini stood slackjawed 
momentarily unable to sp3ak. 


Paul had gone too far to stop now. It 
wasn't just Ginny he was standing up 
for, it was also himself. Pag£inini, 
Hoffsteader, Coach Fox and all the 
other authorities who'd terrorized, 
bullied and silenced him all his life 
fused together into one monstrous 
face. Words poured from him now in a 

"For three months I've sat here 
watching you treat the Filipinos in 
this office like shit. For you, a good 
worker's the one most willing to be 
silently exploited. That's sick! And 
while I'm at it, I might as well say I'm 
pretty sick of the fag jokes you tell 
too. Maybe you never realized I'm 
gay. Well here's one faggot who's 
had enough of your racist, sexist 

By now workers had come in from 
other departments to see what the 
commotion was about. Though trem- 
bling inside, Paul stood up calmly, 
took his suitcoat from his desk, and 
walked through the office and lunch- 
room toward the elevator. Paganini 
never found his voice. 

"Guess you can have all my paper- 
clips now Suzi," Paul said as he 
passed her. Maybe he was out of a job 
again, had cancelled it flat, but it was 
worth it for the looks on the faces of 
the secretaries, especially Suzi. 

"Good for you!" Suzi said. "We'll 
get 'em yet." 

"Maybe I didn't do the best 
thing," Paul thought as he pushed 
the first floor button. "Maybe I 
should have stayed to help Ginny and 
Suzi organize a union." But for the 
moment he felt good, better even than 
he'd felt marching on Gay Pride Day. 
Maybe he wasn't a real revolutionary 
yet but he'd taken a first step. He was 
no longer silent. Or so afraid. Or so 

by Steve Abbott 



SraniD PnQrE55il\IG: 



Sometime in the 1970s, the pubHc 
image of the computer was detached 
from past phobias. No longer the 
symbol of technocratic dehumaniza- 
tion, it was glorified as the harbinger 
of a new way of life. The popular 
futurism of Alvin Toffler (The Third 
Wave), the never-ending self-congrat- 
ulations of the industry press, the 
advent of the "personal computer" 
and the high-tech fantasies of worried 
managers combined into a crescendo 
of hype usually heard only at Christ- 
mas or during a good war. 

With computers, as with the rest of 
modern life, the marketing fantasy 
has more appeal than the real thing. 
The hope for a better future shrivels 
in the harsh glare of the present. Here 
we find computers pressed into the 
routine service of those who rule — 
making war, keeping tabs on dissi- 
dents, strengthening the hand of 
management against workers, help- 
ing the megacorporations to coordi- 
nate their global franchises. 

The development and application of 
any new technology is itself a lesson 
in the exercise of power. The use of 
computers in the current worldwide 
restructuring is a better example than 

most. It reveals the elements in the 
social order that are able to produce 
and direct the new technology, and to 
what ends. In so doing it exposes the 
real structures and priorities of the 
dominant social system. 


"Everyone always talks about un- 
documented labor, but nobody ever 
talks about undocumented capital. " 
— unattributed wisecrack 

First off, information technology is 
being used to strengthen the interna- 
tional "integrated circuit" of power. 
Like transportation technology, ano- 
ther crucial underpinning of the glo- 
bal marketplace, it provides the pos- 
sibility of large scale systems of 
production and control. 

Computers have become vital in 
holding together an ever-more inter- 
nationalized economic system per- 
haps best characterized by the emer- 
gence of what Business Week called 
"stateless money:" "... a vast inte- 
grated global money and capital sys- 
tem, almost totally outside all govern- 
mental regulation, that can send 



Eurodollars, Euromarks and other 
stateless currencies hurtling around 
the world 24 hours a day. ' ' This is 
capital more "liquid" than anything 
seen before. It is capital that C£in, and 
does, flow wherever profits are high- 
est; capital that prefers speculation to 
productive investment, £md is more 
than willing to abandon the U.S. for 
the Third World (or vice versa) if new 
conditions render such a move profi- 

Such a degree of internationali- 
zation would not be possible without 
the development of sophisticated in- 
formation retrieval and communica- 
tions systems. As Herb Schiller puts it 
in Who Knows: Information In The 
Age Of The Fortune 500: 

"The capability of the Trans-Na- 
tional Corporation to utilize produc- 
tive facilities where the costs are 
lowest..., to penetrate markets with 
massive advertising campaigns, to 
avoid or minimize taxes by shifting 
production, and to take advantage of 
fluctuating currencies by transferring 
funds from one center to another, is 
almost totally dependent on secure 
and instantaneous global communi- 

cation. " 

The driving force behind all these 
rapid changes is, as usual, various 
sorts of competition. What's different 
today is that this competition takes 
place in a world where corporations 
have become co-actors with the lar- 
gest £md most powerful nations. Jap- 
anese/American competition drives 
the development of computer techno- 
logy and American/Soviet competi- 
tion the technology of war. 

With this integration of markets, 
the political dramas of the modern 
world become supra-national in char- 
acter. Moreover, they take place with- 
in the context of a long-term decline 
in the power of the nation-state 
relative to business. As a Vice-Pres- 
ident of Citibank (with over 3,000 
local branches. Citibank has the lar- 
gest private communications system 
in the world) recently put it: "what 
this all adds up to is another profound 
challenge to the unlimited sovereign 
power of nation-states brought about 
by the technical realities of global 
communications." Or, in more con- 
crete terms, 30-40% of world trade is 
accounted for by internal transfers 



within multinationals. 

This is not necessarily good news. 
As the power of the nation-state's 
economic and social clout weakens, it 
tends more and more to define its 
power in military terms. The Falk- 
lands fiasco is a good example. And 
certainly the Soviet/ American nuclear 
standoff is driven in part by militar- 
istic ways of maintaining national 
identity — ways which are running 
afoul of the economic and political 
realities of a tightly interconnected 
planetary society. Central among 
these realities is the disaster now 
overtaking the Third World. 


Before the advent of the great 
recession in the 70' s, the official 
literature on Third World develop- 
ment was infused with optimism. The 
specter of ecological collapse was 
easily exorcised by a glorious vision 
— U.S. entry into the information age 
would go hand in hand with the trans- 
fer of most manufacturing to the 
low-labor-cost part of the world. In 
this bright delirium everyone was to 
win. While the developed world shif- 
ted to an information-based economy, 
the Third World would become the 
nexus of heavy industry, and thus 
continue to have a major stake in the 
stability of the world system. The 
industrial "miracle" countries like 
Brazil and South Korea were sup- 
posed to show the way for the rest of 
the "underdeveloped" nations. 

Back then many liberal economists 
argued that the economic growth of 
the Third World was crucial to the 
health of the global system — that it 
should be regarded not only as a 
supplier of materials and labor and a 
consumer of finished goods, but as a 
producer of surpluses of its own (e.g. 
the Brandt Report of the late 70' s). 
The managers had an opportunity to 
act as if they believed in a really 
international economy, since it was in 
their interests to do so. They shifted a 
lot of their "runaway" shops to lemds 
of cheap labor, and so gained a 
powerful weapon against workers at 
home. They established high-techno- 
logy enclaves in Southeast Asia, some 
few of which (Singapore, South Ko- 
rea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc.) seem 
to have made it permanently into the 
ranks of the developed nations. They 
fought against "national liberation" 
movements that resisted their tender 
mercies. For a short while, they were 
able to project the image of a world in 
which, eventually, there would be 
room at the top for at least the elites 
from the peripheral countries. 

But the happy harmony between 
the logic of profit and the ideology of 
liberal internationalism was short- 
lived. Protectionism is already the 
order of the day, and the adjustments 
are just beginning. 

The old international division of 
labor depended upon developed coun- 
tries supplying technology while the 
Third World supplied unskilled labor 
and raw materials. Already there is a 




Figure 1 






B-3500 (shared) 

"Modern military operations are not to do with 
weapons. They are to do with information, command, 
control. Information does things. It fires weapons. It tells 
them where to go. The signals network is the key thing. If 
you want to disarm the world, don't get rid of Trident, get 
rid of all the computers." — Professor John Erikson, a 
lecturer in Soviet military strategy and connnnunications at 
Edinburgh University [England], and who has also trained 
[British] Government Communications HQ staff [counter- 
part to the U.S. National Security Agency], (from the 
Manchester Guardian) 

radically declining need for this labor 
within the international economy, just 
as there is within the U.S. When there 
is no longer any great need for it at 
all, what will happen? 

A recent study by the Institute of 
Development Studies (IDS) in Sussex, 
England indicates that we won't have 
to wait for the perfection of automated 
production systems, to see the gmswer 
to this one. Already micro-computers 
have undermined the competitive ad- 
vantage of Third-World-based pro- 
duction. They have significantly in- 
creased the flexibility of assembly 
lines and reduced the amounts of both 

labor and materials needed in pro- 
duction — emd they have improved 
product quality in the bargain. 

Soon real automation — robotics — 
will enter the economic calculus in a 
far more pervasive way than it has to 
date. In the Asian sweatshops where 
the micro-chips themselves are as- 
sembled, robots are arriving by the 
hundreds. Over 250 companies in 
Singapore imported Japanese robots 
in the past year, and Signetics Korea 
will be halving its 2300-person pro- 
duction force in the next three or four 
years with robot-based automation. 
The Malaysian electrical workers 



union expects a "blowout" caused by 
automation within five years "when a 
single production line requires only 50 
workers instead of the 500 now" — 
this is the second largest Malaysian 
industry. (ASIA 2000 — June/ July 

The overall tendency, according to 
IDS and others, is to reduce the 
incentive for the Transnationals to 
invest in Third- World-based produc- 
tion — especially now that high 
unemployment here at home has 
American unions clamoring for trade 
barriers against imports. With the 
introduction of robotics, the eco- 
nomics become even clearer. Labor 
costs must be very low to keep labor- 
intensive production systems com- 

Over the last few years the Japa- 
nese have shifted many of their semi- 
conductor assembly lines to the 
cheapest free-trade zones of all — 
those in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thai- 
land, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. 
But now it is just as cheap to automate 
and keep assembly in Japan. Like- 
wise, Motorola and Fairchild Camera 
and Instrument Corp. have both re- 
cently moved some production lines 
back to the U.S. from Southeast Asia. 
With automated assembly offshore 
production offers no cost advant- 
age. And, with the Third World 
becoming ever more unsta- 
ble, offshore production can 
seem politically unattractive 
even in sectors of the ec- / 
onomy where some econ- 
omic advantage remains. 
This is demonstrated 
by Control Data's 
recent decision 
to pull out of 
South Korea, 
a decision 
not by 

Don't bother me, I'm entering Data. 

but by the instability of the local work 
force. (Last year, 120 young Korean 
women employees of Control Data 
held two American executives hos- 
tage for 9 hours. The execs had come 
to resolve a labor dispute.) 

Offshore production will certainly 
continue to some extent. But the bulk 
of manufacturing will not shift to the 
Third World. As the production pro- 
cess becomes more strongly rooted in 
the new high technologies, it is more 
likely to take place not in the Third 
World, but in the industrialized re- 




Multinational business may find it 
inconvenient to continue on the "dev- 
elopment" paths laid down during the 
post-war boom. But this doesn't mean 
that they can simply be forgotten. The 
export-led economies thrust upon the 
periphery during that brief flourish of 
neo-colonialism were largely financed 
by U.S. and Western European 
banks. According to a source quoted 
in the AT. 7. Times, 3/15/83 ("What's 
the bottom line in Third World 
debt?"), by 1982 the Third World 
owed the nine largest U.S. banks a 
sum equal to more than double their 
real assets. This $600 billion debt 
links the fate of the internatio- 
nal banking system inextricably 
to the tottering economies of 
the periphery. The financial 
collapse of Mexico, to give 
only one particularly dra- 
matic exEunple, would 
certainly take down 
the Bank of Amer- 
ica with it. Well 
over half of 
the B of A- 
's assets 



in Mexican loans. 

The hustle run on the Third World 
continues, too, in the conditions suf- 
fered by the millions whose lives 
always fell outside the development 
plan; in the desertification of lands 
stripped of foliage by desperate pea- 
sants, in jampacked cities, where 
formerly agrarian people scramble for 
a toehold in the money economy; in 
the misery of wars eagerly fostered by 
the U.S. and Soviet military machines 
and the international arms mer- 


Not that life will be so wonderful 
here in fortress America. Employ- 
ment in the once "guaranteed" sec- 
tors like auto will never recover from 
the shakeout of the last three years. 
Nor will the service sector expeind far 
or fast enough to absorb the millions 
displaced by the new ' 'mechanization 
of work." Secure employment will 
become the privilege of an elite of 
technicians and professionals who 
design, implement and oversee the 
new systems. 

The latest waves of layoffs have 
already produced immense demorali- 
zations expressed as rising rates of 
suicide, alcoholism and domestic vio- 
lence. Despite recent and much-pub- 
licized erosion of the "work ethic," 
most U.S. workers still seem to ex- 
perience joblessness as a catastrophe. 
And although the restructuring (dis- 
guised as "Reaganomics") has met 
with sporadic working-class protest, 
the main response is still passive 

The longer-term consequences are 
harder to foresee. The growing num- 
bers of "marginal" people both here 
and in the Third World will present 
major difficulties for capitalism. 
Much as the pacification of the Third 
World is an ongoing concern for 
whole covens of bureaucrats and mili- 
tary men, the pacification of the U.S. 
will again become a standing line- 
item on corporate and governmental 


When sociologists say "marginal," 
they mostly mean: on the margins of 
the wage system, of work. Work 
serves two basic purposes. It is, of 
course, the main means of access to 
that great "necessity" of life, money. 
But it's also vital to the systems of 
"secondary control" which supple- 
ment the primary systems of state 
force (the police, the army) and 
programmed leisure time. It provides 
the single most important opportunity 
for participation in "normal" Ufe, and 
therefore for the construction of a 
"normal" identity. More concretely, 
it fills the empty hours that would 
otherwise breed unrest and imparts 
the discipline of hierarchical power — 
a discipline that can never be allowed 
to lapse. 

With more and more people be- 
coming permanently unemployed, or 
else employed only marginally in 
ways that do not provide them with 
"career opportunities," the system 
loses much of its ability to integrate 
restless groups. A result is the growth 
of what one British writer called "the 
impossible class" in places as cul- 
turally and geographically divergent 
as Brixton, England £md Santo- 
Andrade, Brazil. 

Brixton is a mostly Black London 
neighborhood whose collective coun- 
terattack against the police triggered 
nationwide youth riots in 1981. Santo- 
Andrade, a vast slum on the outskirts 
of Sao Paulo, was likewise the flash- 
point for massive riots just this April. 
Both areas teem with the jobless, the 
penniless and the restless — people 
who have lost, or have never had, the 
usual ties to the economic system. 
Instead they survive by various com- 
binations of part-time work, welfare, 
street-hustling, squatting, shoplift- 
ing, scavenging euid robbery. 

Here some important differences 
emerge. While the British rioters of 
1981 were quite successfully isolated 
from the rest of the working-class 
population, this will be less easily 



done in Brazil. Santo- Andrade, for in 
stance, was also the detonator for the 
big auto workers' strike of 1980-81. In 
general, Third World "marginals" 
have much closer social and cultural 
ties to the regularly employed work- 
ers than do their European and U.S. 
counterparts. This, however, is most- 
ly because Third World workers have 
never enjoyed even the relative se- 
curity and comfort afforded the ma- 
jority in the central countries during 
the last two decades. 

One doesn't have to accept a 
scenario of simple mass unemploy- 

ment to foresee analogous problems 
developing here. Just as likely is what 
some analysts are calling "the fem- 
inization of work." In other words, 
most jobs reduced to the traditional 
status of "women's work," — under- 
paid, part-time, insecure. Also like 
"women's work," many of these jobs 
may be done at home, with "tele- 
commuting" replacing the office for 
millions by the end of the century. 
Workers would be paid piece-work, 
have little contact with other company 
employees, and (the managers doubt- 
less hope) be totally unorganized. 



While this prospect is predictably 
touted by industry flacks as a "libera- 
tion," it is actually more like a return 
to the conditions preceeding the in- 
dustrial revolution. But it is worth 
remembering that a major reason 
workers were originally brought to- 
gether in factories two hundred 
years ago was to discipline them. 
Today, it is hoped, the computer will 
be able to monitor the worker so 
closely that other forms of oversight 
can be dispensed with. 

The essence of marginalization is 
not the lack of wage-work per se, but 
the lack of the identification with it 
that comes with sharing its rewards. 
Along with this lack of identification 
comes an inner abandonment of the 
"work ethic" and attendant success 
femtasies — executive suite, house in 
the suburbs, whatever. 

Not that there will be any shortage 
of candidates for the Technical/Pro- 
fessional elite. Millions are willing to 
be good if it will keep them in 
Porsches and chocolate. For millions 
more religion and alcohol will fulfill 
their traditional roles. For others 
though, different means are called 
for, and the managers hope that 
microchip-based technologies will 
help provide these means. 


"Dealing with contradictions and 
conflicts is a tricky business. " 

— David Rockefeller 

With the world ever more brutal 
and unstable, and with the system 
unable to offer everyone a place, the 
marginals are becoming the "surplus 
population" of a Malthusiem capi- 
talism. War seems ever more attrac- 
tive as a means of social control. Let's 
call this the 1984 scenario. In Orwell's 
Oceania the basic problem was that 
society had become too productive — 
and military waste production had to 
be maintained to keep the population 
amenable to government manipula- 
tion. There are, incidentally, 45 coun- 
tries at war at this moment, and at 
least one of those wars — the 
Iran/Iraq conflict — is just the sort of 
slow-burning labor-intensive opera- 
tion that invites interpretation as a 
deliberate population control mea- 

But even in 1984, warfare wasn't 

enough. It was supplemented by the 
telescreen, a device that also has its 
parallels in the modem world. TV and 
home video are obvious examples, 
since they provide a surrogate image- 
based participation in the life of 
society. And the development of 
corporate TV, the computerized infor- 
mation utility, the fifty-seven vEiriety 
cable pacification box, computer-tar- 
geted advertisement, teleshopping, 
3-D video games and other trinkets 
too wonderful even to imagine will 
certainly help. 

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And, since it is so easy to "talk 
back to your TV," other, less subtle 
applications will also be deployed. 
Developments in computerized sur- 
veillance technology are truly mind- 
boggling. Already, devices that cein 
take the place of the prison are being 
tested. A recent article in the San 
Francisco Chronicle (4/26/83) tells of 
a microchip anklet that notifies the 
central computer if the prisoner strays 
more than 200 feet from the phone. 
Like many developments, this one 
was anticipated in science fiction — 
usually used by an evil society against 
the hero. 


Nobody, including the top mana- 
gers, really knows how much of all 
this will come true, or how fast. 
Computerization in general is pro- 
ceeding at a breakneck pace. But the 
rate of microelectronic investment in 
the workplace itself, the primary 
source of all these contradictions, is 
currently much slower than anyone 
expected. The market for factory 
automation products and services in 
the U.S. this year is about $4 billion, 
and while some industry analysts 
envision an explosion of the market to 
as much as $30 billion by 1990, this is 
uncertain. There simply isn't much 
incentive to buy new plants and 
equipment these days. The Wall 
Street Journal (10/11/82) commented 
that while the the automated "factory 
of the future" may eventually become 
standard, right now "there are prac- 
tically no new factories being built." 

Even if a real economic recovery 
arrives, the incentives to automate 
production in the industrialized re- 
gions of the world may not turn out to 
be so compelling after all. Some Third 
World countries (Singapore, South 
Korea, etc.) have "developed" far 
enough to support automated pro- 
duction, and perhaps to support it 
more cheaply than the American 
economy can. Besides, the Trans- 
National corporations (TNC's) are 

A U.S. Border Patrol officer models 
the agency's new night patrol head- 
gear. The helmet is equipped with 
infrared goggles that allow agents 
to spot illegal immigrants entering 
from Mexico. 

1 1 II II I nil 1 1 II I 111 I II II mil III II 

already heavily committed to these 
areas. And, in many cases, the TNC's 
only access to foreign markets other- 
wise protected by import curbs will be 
by building the factories where the 
markets are. Finally, there will be 
products and processes which resist 
automation enough to remain com- 
petitive even when done labor-inten- 
sively — providing that labor is cheap 

Automation is the fruit of capital's 
drive to cut costs and reduce its 
dependence on workers. This is the 
result of no unified plan, but rather a 
byproduct of the competitive need to 
survive. During the last wave of 
automation, in the 50' s, the economy, 
and especially the service sector, 
were rapidly expanding. This time 
around automation is based on far 
more flexible devices, Eind is taking 
place in the context of increased 
international competition, choked 
world markets emd decrepit infra- 




All these variables make predic- 
tions difficult. A few things are clear 
nonetheless. First, unless the new 
technologies turn out not to work at 
all, further mechanization of work is 
inevitable sooner or later. Second, 
this means that unemployment :md 
"underemployment" (low-paid, part- 
time, insecure work) will continue to 
grow. Third, wage-work linked to 
programmed consumption has been 
the primary means of social control in 
the developed countries since 1945. 
As this means breaks down, cash- 
strapped elites are likely to resort to 
some brutal alternatives. 

In this context, even the most 
sophisticated strategies for "full-em- 
ployment,' ' like the idea of converting 
war-related industries to peaceful 
use, fall very short indeed. Reason- 
able though they may seem, they are 
unachievable without major social 
upheaval, upheaval that their pro- 
ponents refuse to welcome. 

A better approach is to honestly 
confront the complexity and depth of 
the current restructuring and to try to 
find a politics that can match it. A 
successful fight for the development 
and use of technology must focus on 
the issue of control, and it is not only 

technology but work itself that is used 
to control the population. It will have 
to grapple with the profoundly con- 
tradictory implications of the new 
automation, implications which this 
article has only gestured at. We can 
take a lesson here from Alvin Toffler 
and his ilk, who have shown just how 
many millions of people, suspecting 
the scale of the coming changes, are 
straining to understand the "big pic- 

One point of leverage in dealing 
with the reality of economic immiser- 
ation may be in taking the hype at its 
word — turning the promise of 
liberation from work into a political 
demand. Workers and marginals in 
Italy and elsewhere have already pio- 
neered the fight for the separation of 
work and income — for the "right to 
live" rather than the "right to work." 
(It should go without saying that 
welfare as it currently exists does not 
qualify as "living".) Others, most 
recently Northern Europesm youth, 
have bypassed "income" altogether 
by simply taking what they need, 
squatting houses and jumping public 
transit gates. 

These sorts of tactics are, of course, 
limited. They are cited only in the 
hope that they might evoke a sense of 
politics as an assertion of the right to 
live. With work becoming the focus of 
life for only a privileged elite, and a 
meaningless agony for the rest, such 
an assertion, long overdue, may be a 
real possibility. The only other choice 
is a more or less uncritical defense of 
the society of wage-work and its 

— by Tom Athanasiou, con Amigos 


Is thare »n 9nd in sight? 

Get a lift from 

magazine with the bmd attitude 




Look our way! Shout "Hooray!" 
Space for more of you, day by day, 
Denizens of the ice cube tray! 

They're building another ice cube tray. 
(Lining it up with the one they built last year.) 
Its mirrored glass turns back the sun 
And seals off city sounds from inside ears. 

Air, you say? Dare you say! 
Breathe the copy fumes, day by day. 
Denizens of the ice cube tray! 

by Ana Kellia Ram ares 

Behind the glass the paper pushers 
Push their pulp five days a week. 
Policy. Procedure. Word processors 
Interface but never speak. 


File away! Type away! ^ 

Count your paperclips, day by day, 
Denizens of the ice cube tray! 

They'll toss their calendars off the roof 
At lunch on New Year's Eve, 
Consigning a year to the gutter; 
When paid, one shouldn't grieve. P 

Steady pay! Come to stay! 
Build seniority, day by day. 
Denizens of the ice cube tray! 




Finally comes retirement day, 
(Gossip and grub in a groggy haze, 
Then out of the tray 
To melt in the sun's last rays.) 

While away! Pile away! "^ 

Count your memories, day by day. 
Denizens of the ice cube tray! 




(To the tune of "God Save the Queen.") 

Glory to him and her 

Who unjams the copier. 

God save their genes! ^ jy^ 


Celebrating Arrr 

Celebrating Arnfied Forces 
Day is like Dancing at your 
own funeral!! 



Hurled to the SF Financial District 
streets from an upper floor on Friday 
May 20, Armed Forces Day. 



LilDRLD 4 

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She's not a real boss 

Not really. 

She does the same work we do. 

She can neither hire nor fire. 

She shares her food 

Sometimes brings something 

(licorice malted milk balls 

a homegrown tomato) 

especially for you. 

She's nice. She gardens. 

Will not tolerate a racist joke. 

Has had a hard life: 

Her husband left her on Valentine's 

Her neighbors throw garbage in her 

Alone at night she hears strange no 

She will give you a ride home 

Rather than see you wait alone 

on a dark corner of a bad street - 

For a bus. _.. .- 

But, when she's there 

No one talks about the price of gas 

Or how the light from the machines hurts our eyes 

Or how we don't get paid enough , , 

How food and apartments cost too much 

There are no complaints 

In fact we don't talk about anything 

When she's there. 

$1.50 CHEAP 

by Dorthy Shellorne